The pharmacy’s role in healthcare delivery continues to expand as the demand for cost-effective, convenient and accessible care continues to grow. A key aspect of this new role is the growth of pharmacy-based immunization delivery.
Although providing immunizations is still a relatively new service line for the pharmacy, it is one that has grown rapidly in just a few short years — influenza vaccinations administered at pharmacies increased by more than 500% over a six-year time period. However, over that same time period, overall adult immunization rates in the United States remained relatively stagnant. So while there has been a shift in the setting of vaccine administration, there is still a need to improve overall vaccination rates. How can the pharmacy capitalize on its new role as a convenient setting of care and improve overall immunization rates for key diseases such as pneumococcal disease?
The pharmacy has a number of advantages that make it the perfect setting to increase overall immunization rates and improve population health. Pharmacists are consistently voted one of the most trusted professions in America. The pharmacy also is convenient and accessible — 96% of Americans live within five miles of a community pharmacy, and most visit their local pharmacy on a regular basis. And with 25% of Americans now receiving an influenza vaccination at their local pharmacy, the pharmacist has been proven as a trusted provider of preventive care.
Smart clinical messaging has emerged as a promising technology to facilitate the time-sensitive and accuracy-dependent process of determining vaccine eligibility in the pharmacy. Smart clinical messages are different from alerts being generated in the pharmacy today because they provide targeted information based on both clinical and business rules, as well as full integration with the pharmacy management system. The result is patient- and vaccine-specific alerts that manifest in the pharmacist’s existing workflow in real-time, allowing vaccination opportunities to be addressed at the point of service.
To prove the value of smart clinical messaging, a study was conducted from Nov. 1, 2016, to Jan. 31, 2017, at more than 5,600 pharmacies nationwide to measure the effectiveness of smart clinical messaging on vaccination rates for the two Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-recommended pneumococcal vaccines. The pharmacies in the study included a national retailer, a regional grocer and an assortment of mid-sized chains and independents. The results were positive in all pharmacy settings. When compared with pneumococcal immunization data from the prior year, pneumococcal conjugate vaccination rates increased by 64.3% and pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccination rates increased by 31.6%.
As consumers demand more convenient and accessible care, the role of the pharmacist will continue to grow in scope and importance. Pharmacists are transforming the perception of their role as a provider of preventative care by offering basic medical services to their customers — including immunizations. The pharmacy’s unique position in the care continuum, combined with its unique access to large numbers of patients, make it an ideal care setting for improving overall U.S. vaccination rates. By leveraging innovative technologies that help them efficiently and effectively engage with patients, pharmacists can make a measurable impact on both vaccination rates and overall population health.