Pharmacy-provided immunizations critical to patient care

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Pharmacy-provided immunizations critical to patient care

By Michael Johnsen - 05/23/2017

Through offering immunizations, pharmacies can increase their standing as a healthcare destination within their communities, as well as create a new, patient-building service and revenue stream. Profit margins associated with vaccine administration are, on average, greater than oral medications dispensed, said Eleanor Daufenbach, director of Clinical Marketing for Retail Pharmacy for Cardinal Health.

That opportunity starts with flu vaccines in or around September of each year. As many as 41.7% of Americans get their flu shots annually, including 63.4% of those adults older than 65 years of age, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to the CDC, 24.3% of adults got those shots within a retail pharmacy setting. The majority of adults (37.4%) are still getting their flu shots at the doctor’s office, and 17.6% of adults are getting their flu shots through an on-site workplace clinic.

“It’s important that pharmacies find ways to sustain and grow their business,” Daufenbach told Drug Store News. “An immunization practice helps retail pharmacies not only promote business growth and sustainability, it also provides better access to vaccines in their community and really positions [those pharmacies] as a healthcare destination.”

According to the 2016 NCPA Digest, 68% of community pharmacies already offer immunization services; 23% of those community pharmacy operations offer travel vaccinations, a significant growth opportunity within the retail pharmacy vaccination space. “That’s more market driven,” Daufenbach said. Travel vaccines are most popular in areas that spawn international travel, such as communities supporting colleges and universities, large metropolitan areas or communities surrounding an international business conglomerate, for example. “Travel vaccines may not be an opportunity for every pharmacy, but it is definitely a growing opportunity for many pharmacies,” she said.

Cardinal Health provides a dedicated travel vaccine program to its retail pharmacy partners that delivers additional support related to those vaccines. “We do travel consultations and [instruct pharmacists] how to pull in OTCs that may be needed for somebody who is traveling overseas,” Daufenbach said. At Cardinal Health RBC 2017, Cardinal Health is offering a travel vaccine CE to help promote that opportunity.

Other growth areas include such vaccines as Zostavax, which can help prevent shingles. According to the CDC, 30% of Americans develop shingles at some point in their lives. Those opportunities not only bring in the coveted senior patients older than 55 years of age, but also may open the door to serving long-term care communities.

Though providing flu shots also opens those LTC doors, Daufenbach said.

To help its retail pharmacy partners, Cardinal Health hosts a suite of immunization solutions, including the Immunizations Specialized Care Center. The Immunizations SCC offers members access to extensive program development guides, a dedicated web-based resource with all the latest tools and information, education and year-round marketing tools. Members receive support at every stage in the development of their immunizations program from guidance on how to expand beyond the pharmacy walls to ways to refine your immunization business.

Cardinal Health also provides immunizing pharmacies the physician- signed protocols necessary in approximately 35 states. These protocols can be  a potential adoption barrier for community pharmacists. “Many times in today’s market, physicians are hesitant to sign off on protocols for the administration of vaccines,” Daufenbach said. “One of our solutions is our Immunization Collaborative Practice program, which provides a physician-signed protocol for routine vaccines in states where that’s required,” she said. Those protocols are both state-specific and vaccine-specific, and include regular clinical and regulatory reviews.

Finally, for pharmacists looking to become certified to vaccinate, the American Pharmacists Association provides a comprehensive certification course at Cardinal Health RBC every year. Cardinal Health augments that training with a certified CPR course specifically designed for healthcare professionals, as many states are requiring a pharmacist to possess an up-to-date CPR certification to qualify as a certified immunizer.

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