As Flu Season Approaches, Prepare to Vaccinate This Fall

This National Immunization Awareness Month, prepare your pharmacy to offer important vaccines.

Although it may seem like summer just started, both autumn and cold and flu season are on the way, along with the demand for an annual flu shot.

“As we head into cold and flu season, and as consumer expectations evolve for better healthcare access and quicker and more convenient care, now is the time for independent pharmacies to rethink the way they operate,” said Gregg Jones, RPh, director of clinical programs at Cardinal Health. “Offering immunization solutions or point-of-care testing, for instance, allows a pharmacy to become a health and wellness destination within their community while also adding new revenue streams for their business.”

Independent pharmacies are an important element of the drive to vaccinate the public. A variety of vaccines are available for administration by pharmacists or pharmacy technicians, with whom many individuals already have a positive relationship. Receiving a vaccine at the pharmacy may be less time consuming for a patient than going to see their healthcare provider, and many patients may feel more at ease in a pharmacy than with their primary care provider.

Jones believes that this puts pharmacists in a key role for getting vaccines out there. “Patients trust their pharmacists, which puts independent pharmacies in a great position during flu season to educate people about the importance of the flu vaccine, overcome vaccine hesitancy and administer vaccines,” he said.

While flu activity was low during the 2020-2021 flu season likely due to people staying home, wearing face masks and physical distancing, it could increase at any time, which is why getting the flu vaccine is important.1 Here’s what an independent pharmacist should consider doing to prepare for the 2022-2023 flu season:

  • Use community ties to host vaccine clinics at non-pharmacy sites. Offsite clinics can not only increase access to flu shots, but also help revenue and get the pharmacy’s name out there to potential customers.
  • Take stock of the pharmacy’s workflow. Tasks may require reassignment. A digital workflow like Cardinal Health’s MyScheduling allows pharmacy staff to create appointments, send reminders, and provide consent reports before the vaccination appointment.
  • Early in the season, consider the flu vaccines to pre-book for the next season, so that when the typical time of year comes around, the pre-book for 2023-2024 vaccines will be ready to go.

Cardinal Health offers a number of resources to help support independent pharmacists during the fall/winter respiratory illness season. Their point-of-care testing gives the resources needed to offer rapid diagnostic testing as well as offer wellness screening. In addition to influenza, pharmacists can also test for COVID-19, strep throat, HbA1C, hepatitis C, HIV, mononucleosis, Lyme disease, and cholesterol. Additionally, collaborative practice agreements with physicians can give pharmacists the ability to both test and prescribe, if allowed by state regulations.

The Flu Vaccine Program works to get the right mix of flu vaccines to the pharmacy. The program has a wide variety of flu vaccines available, plus tools that can help with planning for future flu seasons. Cardinal Health’s Immunization Solutions give pharmacists the tools to become the place where patients trust pharmacists to get all of the needed vaccines. Finally, Medical Benefit Billing makes sure pharmacists can track medical benefit claims and works with Cardinal Health’s Central Pay and Reconciliation Portal.

“The clinical solutions that Cardinal Health has available for independent pharmacies are a game changer,” said Mylo Wells, PharmD, owner of Wells Hometown Drug in Bloomfield and Keosauqua, Iowa. Wells highlighted how the Cardinal Health services improved his pharmacy’s offerings. “Our immunization services now allow us to compete with larger chain pharmacies. Our patients chose our pharmacies for their vaccines because it’s convenient and we have great customer service. It’s what sets us apart.”

Reference

1. 2020-2021 Flu Season Summary. Updated October 25, 2021. Accessed August 29, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/season/faq-flu-season-2020-2021.htm