Picking up a prescription at a retail pharmacy is the norm for most patients who only have an occasional need for medication. These retail pharmacies also offer snacks, toiletries, and other shopping needs which can help individuals handle their errands all in one place — however, retail pharmacies are unlikely to create a long-term relationship between the pharmacist and patient.
A long-term care pharmacy typically services patients who have chronic ailments and who rely on continuous medications to get the best care for their medical needs, even when several concerns overlap. Unlike a retail pharmacy, a long-term care pharmacy can help patients monitor their health over time.
Here's what you need to know about long-term care pharmacies and how they differ from the retail pharmacies on every street corner.
What Is a Long-Term Care Pharmacy?
Long-term care (LTC) pharmacies work with patients to maintain a prescription drug regimen over a long period of time. Rather than assuming that all medications prescribed for patients are intended to treat acute conditions with an expected end date, the long-term care pharmacist recognizes that their patients may need to take medications for the long haul. Because of this difference in expectation, LTC pharmacists aim to foster a long-term relationship with the patient, so that they can receive the right medication in the right dosage at the right time. This means the LTC pharmacist will know the patient's medical history and can often handle much of the regular testing the patient would usually get from their doctor, making it easier to monitor their health without frequent doctor visits.
The individualized and care-centered services provided by LTC pharmacies is especially helpful for seniors and patients with chronic conditions, as it can help reduce the number of doctor visits and hospitalizations patients experience. This is why the majority of LTC pharmacies can be found in skilled nursing facilities and assisted living communities.
How Does a Long-Term Care Pharmacy Differ From a Retail Pharmacy?
Since retail pharmacies are open to the public and intended for a broader customer base, the majority of their retail space is set up to sell over-the-counter medications and other items. Additionally, retail pharmacies provide prescription medication directly to the consumer after a brief consultation to see if the patient has any questions.
LTC pharmacies, on the other hand, do not have convenience items for sale, and they are not open to the public. LTC pharmacists must coordinate medication with the facility, the care provider and the patient, review each prescription to make sure it is not contra-indicated with any of the patient's other medications, meet packaging and delivery requirements, and stand ready to deliver medication at any time. All of these requirements make it impossible for LTC pharmacies to operate like retail ones.
When Should You Choose a Long-Term Care Pharmacy?
Most LTC pharmacies are located in places that are already geared toward patients with chronic ailments, such as within a skilled nursing facility. However, you may get to decide which type of pharmacy fills your prescriptions — some nursing facilities offer a choice of either a retail pharmacy or an LTC pharmacy for prescriptions, and some retail pharmacies include an LTC pharmacy among their services.
In general, it's best to choose an LTC pharmacy if you have an ongoing health issue that must be monitored over time or if you need multiple medications for a variety of ailments. An LTC pharmacy will look at your health history and current issues holistically rather than a prescription at a time. Additionally, since LTC pharmacies often deliver prescriptions as needed, they can ensure that patients with mobility issues can get their proper medications on time.
The Bottom Line
Getting your prescription drugs through a long-term care pharmacy means having a working relationship with a pharmacist who understands your history and your needs. Both for seniors and for patients with chronic ailments, this extra support can make it easier to navigate your health in retirement.