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DSN webinar sizes up pharmacy vaccine strategies amid COVID-19 and beyond

A Drug Store News webinar on Wednesday highlighted how technology can modernize pharmacies' workflow as they expand their role from COVID-19 vaccines to providing more clinical services.
Sandra Levy
Senior Editor
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COVID-19 has enabled a transformation in pharmacy. What strategies can pharmacies employ to modernize their workflow to enhance their services amid COVID and beyond? 

In a Drug Store News webinar held Wednesday, Mike Cantrell, EnlivenHealth's senior director of regional operations, David Kirkus, EnlivenHealth's pharmacy consultant, and Duane Jones, district manager, community pharmacy residency director and clinical programs director of Harps Food Stores, outlined what strategies are needed for pharmacies and pharmacists to modernize their vaccine workflow to expand their vaccination and clinical services.

The full webinar, presented by EnlivenHealth, can be viewed on demand here.

Cantrell summarized where the United States is with its COVID-19 vaccine effort, noting that in February, experts said 1.8 million doses need to be administered daily.

“We were at a million a day at that time. We are currently at about 2.7 million doses per day. On March 25, President Biden set the goal of 200 million administered doses by day 100 of his administration. At this rate, it looks like we’ll achieve this goal,” he said, noting that local government-run programs are getting more efficient, pharmacies are becoming more involved in administering the vaccine and vaccine availability is improving.

Cantrell cited a Kaiser Family Foundation study on the COVID vaccine program that included several patient cohorts. When respondents were asked if they received or would like to receive the COVID vaccine soon, 55% of respondents answered yes, with respondents age 65 years old and older leading all other groups. 

When queried if they will definitely forego the vaccine, 15% of respondents said, “we’ll pass.”

“It’s pretty even across age and ethnic groups,” Cantrell said. When it came to patient preferences regarding vaccine sites, he said that the Kaiser statistics, not surprisingly, showed that respondents wanted to receive the vaccine from their own physician, but their local pharmacy was the second choice. “Patients are viewing pharmacies as destinations to obtain healthcare services that extend beyond traditional pharmacy practice. COVID presents pharmacy with opportunities to expand services, a practice transformation, if you will.”

Cantrell also said that many pharmacies instituted an appointment-based process to accommodate patients. “Patients on a very large scale have now experienced scheduling appointments at pharmacies like they do with every provider," he said. "They’re aware that pharmacists have professional training to provide vaccines."

Cantrell advised pharmacists that they will need to use technology to enable transformation on a large scale, especially since it is likely that people will need a follow-up COVID dose or booster.

Finally, he said that with the goal of expanding your practice and driving more revenue without adding burden, it's important to identify practice expansion opportunities, such as year-round vaccines and to pursue a comprehensive vaccine strategy, one which includes the use of technology to support things like patient consents and registry reporting.

David Kirkus agreed with Cantrell and said that this is a transformational moment that pharmacies can take advantage of. "With all of the recent press coverage, there has never been more public awareness of the need for immunizations," Kirkus said. "Goodwill towards pharmacy is at an all time high. Pharmacy has always been one of most trusted professions. There's an opportunity now to build a robust year-round vaccination practice and incorporate other clinical services into the pharmacy workflow."

Kirkus also said that amid the pandemic, patients readily adapted to making online appointments, and pharmacies should leverage that for other pharmacy services going forward. "Think how more efficient pharmacists can be. They can proactively be prepared for pharmacy encounters with patients," he said. "Pharmacists can provide so much more value if they know which patients are coming in each day and they have time to prepare to provide services they need."

Finally, Kirkus said that EnliveHealth's CareScheduler can collect all required demographic, insurance and consent information in advance of appointments. "CareScheduler is a complete end-to-end solution. It automates patient communication, enables patients to make their own appointments, ensures follow-up dose appointments are scheduled, it automates registry reporting and handles billing proactively."

Jones said that CareScheduler has enabled Harps Food Stores to operate more efficiently.

"One of the greatest things about CareScheduler is that we tried to work on paper. You have to call the patient, call again and remind them of the appointment," Jones said. "The system makes the workflow easier throughout the course of the day and allows us to spend time with patients. That’s the future of pharmacy. Today, start positioning yourself to be ready. If you wait, it will be too late. We need the tools, and we need efficiencies in place."