Offering immunization services at the pharmacy promotes public health and strengthens patient-pharmacy staff relationships.
As revenue from dispensing prescriptions plummets, pharmacists may need to turn to additional service offerings to create revenue streams. Since COVID-19 vaccines became available in early 2021, it’s clearer than ever before that offering vaccines is a way to not only keep patients safe, but also improve pharmacy revenue.
Victoria Hennessey, PharmD, and Amanda Hittle, CPhT, both of Community Pharmacy of Springdale in Springdale, Arkansas, shared why including vaccines makes sense and how their pharmacy has improved their vaccination workflow during a session presented at the National Community Pharmacists Association 2022 Annual Convention & Expo, held October 1 through 4 in Kansas City, Missouri.
Hennessey, the owner of Community Pharmacy of Springdale, opened the session by asking the audience if their pharmacy offered vaccines and whether vaccine administration was walk-in, by appointment, or a mixture of both. All audience members confirmed that their pharmacy offers vaccines, with many indicating that administration was a mixture. Pharmacists were the most likely to do the administering, but pharmacy technicians were also represented.
The reasons for wanting a robust vaccine program are simple:
Hennessey used the pneumococcal vaccine as an example to demonstrate how pharmacists can improve vaccine coverage. One survey showed that 70% of patients aged 65 years and older had received the vaccine, meaning that 30% of the group still needed to be vaccinated. Among patients aged 18 to 64 years who qualify for the vaccine—such as individuals with asthma or diabetes—only 29.2% had received it. To target these patients, Hennessey suggested including a note to talk about the vaccine to patients who are eligible when they pick up their prescription. Additionally, placing triggers to discuss vaccines in the workflow can improve uptake and can be created using the CDC schedule, the state immunization information system, and other sources.
Hittle, lead vaccination technician at Community Pharmacy of Springdale, was responsible for creating the pharmacy’s vaccine program. She introduced a number of tools and steps to ensure a smooth workflow: Hittle color-coded vaccines to match the consent forms, ensuring that the correct vaccine was administered to the correct patient. Templates were utilized to create vaccine cards for certain vaccines, such as monkeypox and influenza; cards for multidose vaccines, like monkeypox, included a QR code to make scheduling the second dose easier for the patient.
Once a workflow is established, it should be adhered to because, Hittle said, “it can be tempting to skip steps, and that’s how we end up making mistakes.” For Hittle, utilizing pharmacy technicians and other pharmacy staff in immunization programs just makes sense. It builds trust between the patients and staff other than the pharmacist. And, it’s very likely that there’s someone on the staff who is looking for a challenge, like a vaccine program.
Hennessey recommends starting a vaccination program by offering influenza, pneumococcal, herpes zoster vaccines; these are typically the most popular among patients. Then, add common childhood vaccines like MMR and Tdap. She urged pharmacists to consider the demographics of their community as well. In her area, there is a large population of refugees who require certain vaccines to meet immigration requirements. Stocking those vaccines, and partnering with organizations that work with the refugees, made sense for her business. Travel vaccines can be another option to consider: they’re not very common and could make a pharmacy a destination.
Introducing vaccines to a pharmacy is many things: a way to keep patients safe, build relationships, promote public health, and build revenue.It can even be the start to more revenue streams, Hennessey noted, “when we're talking about vaccination services, it's really a catalyst to other clinical services that you're going to start to add into your pharmacy.”
Drug Topics’ coverage of the 2022 NCPA Annual Convention and Expo is sponsored Prescryptive Health.
1. Hennessey V, Hittle A. Every shot counts: Boosting immunization efforts. Presented at: National Community Pharmacists Association 2022 Annual Convention; October 1-4, 2022; Kansas City, MO.