Pharmacy-based immunization: Are we just rushing in?

October 15, 2010

Pharmacists are uniquely situated to administer vaccines to their patients. But with so many problems still overlooked and unresolved, are community pharmacists ready for this new task?

Key Points

Community pharmacists are at the forefront of changing patient care. This means that as pharmacists, we are uniquely situated to administer vaccines to our patients. We are the most accessible healthcare professionals, and we are the last line between most patients and the therapy they receive. But with so many problems still overlooked and unresolved, are community pharmacists ready for this new task?

Some may ask whether the word "community" is still appropriate, when "retail" has become more and more the focus. The No. 1 concern connected with retail pharmacy is and has been time. Retail pharmacists are struggling to find enough time to properly manage patient care. We are getting lost in paperwork, whether from our employers or the varying state, federal, and insurance requirements.

The typical pharmacist is becoming overwhelmed by issues requiring his or her attention. Some of those issues are, but are not limited to: 15 minute fill-time requirements, ambiguous insurance rejections, multiple phones ringing simultaneously, phone/fax/electronic Rx orders, patients dropping off prescriptions, questions (from staff and patients), drug utilization reviews, and counseling.

In connection with prescriptions, there is a large amount of influx that the pharmacist has to deal with, but in most cases there is only one final checkpoint - the pharmacist.

We have stretched our focus too much already. To this day, most retail pharmacists don't have an official lunch break, or any break at all. Yet we are expected to work 12- to 14-hour days. Even for truck drivers, breaks are required.

Official agencies, insurance companies, and our own professional organizations, such as APhA, have not done enough to regulate, organize, and integrate different pharmacy policies well. States have varying laws that sometimes impede efficiency; insurances are difficult to deal with - especially in the case of increasing restrictions, such as prior authorizations; coupons take time to process; and employers are becoming more demanding.