In 2020, NPR shared the story of Zach Matheny, a resident of Columbus, Ohio. On August 3 of the same year, a pharmacy filled a blood-thinning prescription for him and delivered it to his home via the United States Postal Service (USPS). It didn’t happen.
Granted, during this time, the USPS found itself in the middle of controversy. It had been suffering from delivery delays, and questions about its capacity to send the election ballots in time hounded it.
However, this problem isn’t an isolated case. In fact, medication delays have been going on for years and do happen from time to time. To make it even worse, this health issue could potentially affect the growing number of older adults.
In a poll shared by the University of Michigan, at least 25 percent of men and women over 50 depend on medication by mail. The percentage increases to 29 percent for those who take at least one medication. Over 15 percent, meanwhile, received all their drugs through this method.
Further, the demand for by-mail medications seems to be increasing over the years. This service that used to be intended for people living in rural areas has become popular in urban regions because of cost-effectiveness and convenience. Therefore, the risk of delays goes up as the understaffed pharmacies try to keep up with orders.
How can then patients safeguard their health and well-being while opting for this drug delivery method? Here are two tips to remember:
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1. Consider Going Local
The rules on prescription mail delivery can vary between states. Usually, though, only pharmacies and healthcare providers can set that up for the patient. It may be then beneficial for those who want to avoid delays to choose a pharmacy or a doctor in the area who can provide such assistance.
First, the risks of delays are minimal. If there are issues with deliveries, patients can easily reach out to their pharmacies and doctors. Further, should the supply chain process fail, traveling to get their prescriptions filled in person feels more convenient.
Another option for patients is to discuss more delivery options. A private courier service, for example, might be a better choice in many situations since they are location-centric. They are less likely to deal with many by-mail prescriptions, so delivery can be on time.
They are more familiar with routes, and their experience helps them become more efficient in their systems. Lastly, since they cover only a small area, they might be more than capable of catering to next-day, same-day, or even weekend deliveries, although patients should expect to pay more.
2. Perform Drug Inventory
The risk of delayed medication delivery significantly increases when patients are running out of medications fast. Often, they may end up “rationing” what they have—that is, they lower the dose, skip taking the drugs on some days, or avoid taking certain medications until they know that fresh supply is on the way.
Doing this can worsen drug non-compliance, leading to more problems, including poor management of the disease. In the long term, patients may experience worse outcomes, as well as more frequent and costlier hospitalizations and treatments.
By now, patients need to accept that delays can happen, but they can do something to reduce the impact. One strategy is to conduct an inventory of the medicines they need regularly.
This way, they can effectively plan when to call up their pharmacy and doctor for a refill. For example, they may give themselves a two-week lead time. This means they don’t need to wait until they have only a week’s worth of drugs before asking for a refill.
Note that this arrangement is not set in stone. Both doctors and pharmacies may set up standards to ensure that they don’t keep more than what they need. This may also not work if the ordered prescriptions can be prone to abuse.
Nevertheless, if they can establish themselves as a compliant patient, they may be better positioned to negotiate for this setup.
Another way to maintain a good inventory of medications is to opt for shorter supplies when delays occur. This means one should be prepared to buy medications good for 15 to 30 days until the courier can guarantee a more reliable service.According to the WHO, medications work only with proper administration. It should be given to the right patient at the right time at the right dose via the right route. Failure or problems in any of these areas, such as delays in medication delivery, can make drugs, no matter how helpful, ineffective.