How pharmacists are helping to push vital health efforts.
As pharmacists slowly gain an expanded role in health care, research has overwhelmingly shown that pharmacist involvement results in greater health outcomes. The latest data on vaccinations are no different: When pharmacists get involved, more vaccinations are given.
A recent study sponsored by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) and published in the journal Clinical Therapeutics found that pharmacists have had a profound effect on flu vaccine rates. The study examined rates between 2003 and 2013, before and after pharmacists were given the authority to administer flu vaccines.
Overall, the researchers found that states allowing pharmacist vaccinations increased vaccination rates, and those rates continued to increase over time. In 2003, the rate of vaccination in those states was 32.2%, and by 2013 that rate rose to 40.3%. In 2013, about 5.1 million vaccinations could be attributed to laws passed during the study period. The extra 5.1 million vaccinations may have prevented between 81,000 and 134,000 flu cases, depending on the effectiveness of the vaccine.
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States with broader policies may, according to the authors, be more likely to have lower rates. They hypothesized that adults aged 25 to 64 were more likely to use alternative health-care settings, such as a pharmacy, which could explain the higher vaccination rates among this age group. With those results, the authors recommended increasing pharmacists’ ability to administer vaccines.
Similar results were found in a recent APhA Foundation pilot study. That study looked at eight community pharmacies in Washington State, and found that they increased vaccine administration rates by 41.4% over six months.
To achieve this result, pharmacists were given bidirectional access to Washington’s Immunization Information System (IIS), meaning that they could both see and contribute to a patient’s records. When a patient came for a vaccination, the pharmacist would open the IIS and search for unmet vaccination needs. For every patient who came in for a flu vaccination, 1.45 other vaccines were forecasted to be due.
The study found that pharmacists uncovered 36 cases where forecasted vaccinations were contraindicated, and 196 cases where a patient self-reported a vaccine not present in the record. Among patients shown to have unmet immunization needs, 95% were administered by the pharmacist at the point of care.
Currently, only 32 states allow pharmacists bidirectional IIS capabilities. This, according to the study, is one of the main barriers to the IIS technology. Among states that allow bidirectional capabilities, only three require reporting by pharmacists.