It is not a stretch to say millions of people have benefited from vaccines since Edward Jenner first observed that inoculation with the cowpox virus provided protection against smallpox. I fact many life threatening and debilitating diseases have become little more than a distant memory in the United States because of widespread vaccination. But there is still more progress to be made. Many pharmacy customers are candidates for vaccines that could provide significant health benefits. Below I will outline some ways the independent pharmacy can promote their vaccination services and help their customers remain healthy.
Overworked doctors creates an opportunity
One thing to keep in mind is the local doctor’s office is feeling squeezed from every direction. They are having to do more with less all the time. As they try to keep up with more work and shorter appointment times, some things are not being addressed. Also, new regulations in many states are allowing pharmacists to vaccinate without a doctor’s order. This combination of factors combine to make vaccination a lower priority for many medical groups. This will likely result in a change of practice habits and doctors will just stop writing prescriptions for vaccines and, as a result, likely have fewer conversations about immunizations with their patients. This is where pharmacy has an opportunity to fill the gap that is beginning to open.
Independent pharmacy steps in to help
Local independent pharmacy has the opportunity to make a big difference in the health of their individual community. By educating the staff, patients they see, and local doctors they can increase immunization rates. They key to improving immunization rates is in having a plan and ensuring the entire staff works together to execute the plan. Keep reading for the framework to a successful vaccination program.
Educate the staff
The first step to providing more vaccinations is to educate everyone on your staff. If they don’t see value in the service then they will have difficulty educating your patients. Make sure everyone from the cashier to the pharmacists understands who needs to be vaccinated and why it’s a benefit. Take the time to provide this education. Make sure everyone understands the benefits. Take the time to review vaccine myths and dispel them. Immunizations save lives, decrease hospitalizations and decrease pain and suffering. They also continue to lower healthcare costs.
Implement a system
Once you have everyone in agreement that vaccinations are good and they understand the benefits you can develop a plan. Rolling out a plan that everyone understand and implements will have the greatest chance of success. The plan must be followed consistently. It must become routine so everyone develops the automatic habit of promoting the service. And finally it must be easy to follow. Below is a rough outline you can use I your pharmacy.
Promoting immunizations for independent pharmacy
Create an immunization calendar
Pull out a calendar and pick one vaccine to promote each month and the specific population you will be targeting. You don’t want to try promoting all your vaccines to every customer. They will quickly grow weary and your efforts will lose effectiveness quickly. Instead if you say in March we promote pneumonia shots to diabetics, April we talk about shingles to those over 50, in May we discuss tetanus etc. Just promote one item to a subset of your customers. This keeps your promotions fresh.
Review the facts behind each promotion with your staff
Before you begin each monthly promotion, you want to meet with your staff to go over the details. When you are promoting pneumonia to diabetics, take the time to review the specifics with your staff. For example: Adults 19 – 64 with chronic disease (diabetes) should get Pneumovax-23. Furthermore, diabetics are three times more likely to die from pneumonia but only one-third get vaccinated. The CDC has lots of great information like this. Educate the staff so they can then educate the patients. Remember, you are not going to educate every customer, you will target a specific demographic and focus on them for that month.
Review the procedure
How will your tech identify the right patients? For the diabetic above you could simply pick three medications. So during the month of March, anyone who gets a prescription for insulin, metformin or glimepiride between the age of 19 and 64 needs to be asked these questions… Provide them with the questions and have them educate the patient on the benefits of this vaccine. Give your staff clear expectations. Each month set new screening criteria and staff/customer education.
Immunization marketing for independent pharmacy
Once you have decided on a marketing calendar for vaccine promotion, and the staff has been educated, it is time to look towards marketing the service. One extremely easy, inexpensive and effective way to promote your service is to produce a one page flyer detailing your service including your pharmacy name, contact info and a list of the vaccines you stock. Make several hundred photocopies and bring a stack to each of your local doctors. This simple act makes it very easy for the doctor to grab a flyer and circle the required vaccine and hand it to the patient. Guess where that patient is likely to go with that piece of paper the doctor just handed them. Really, this simple procedure can work very well.
This is a procedure that can increase vaccination rates while minimizing the pain and hassles associated with the promotion of vaccines. Providing the entire staff with more education and clear expectations will ensure the success of the program, improve immunization rates, ensure the health of the community and help keep the pharmacy profitable.
What have you tried in your pharmacy and how well has it worked? Please comment below.