While laying out her vision for the Association, NCPA Executive Vice President and CEO Kathleen Jaeger stated that our “shared goal must be to ensure that independent community pharmacists continue to be indispensible to patients and America’s health care system.” New reports illustrate how the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic proved to be an excellent example of that goal in action.
Community pharmacists throughout the nation stepped up to administer hundreds of thousands of doses of H1N1 influenza vaccine and demonstrated the critical role pharmacists play in public health and the value they deliver to their patients. Pharmacy’s contributions have not gone unnoticed.
Recently, reports from Biosecurity and Bioterrorism and the Institute of Medicine (IOM) have come out examining the H1N1 influenza vaccination campaign to identify lessons learned, and to provide recommendations to improve future emergency vaccination campaigns. In both reports, the contributions of pharmacists to the success of campaign are specifically cited.
- From Biosecurity and Bioterrorism: “Several study participants emphasized that the use of pharmacists, given their expertise in vaccinating and their ability to adhere to public health guidance, was important to implementing mass vaccination campaigns.“
- For the future, the IOM suggests to public health authorities to “continue to engage with pharmacies and integrate them into vaccine and other countermeasure distribution and administration systems.”
What great compliments and recognition of pharmacist-provided patient care! But we don’t need a public health emergency to spur us to action.
Many NCPA members have already been vaccinating for years, and we’re thrilled with the spike in community pharmacies reporting that they provide immunizations in the pharmacy. According to the most recent NCPA Digest, sponsored by Cardinal Health, the number jumped from 43% to 76%, with the added bonus of an average of about $10,000 in additional revenue.
For the remaining pharmacies that haven’t gotten in the immunization arena, now is the time to get off the sidelines and into the game. Pharmacists in every state now have the authorization to administer vaccines, and your accessibility in the community is a compelling factor why immunizations can grow to be a profitable niche and can help offset declining prescription drug reimbursement. Not only do you know your existing patients and can screen for high-risk individuals, but by being open during the evening, on weekends and holidays, you can take walk-in patients when health clinics and physician offices are most likely closed.
Beverly Schaefer, RPh, of Katterman’s Sand Point Pharmacy in Seattle notes, “probably about a third of the people we immunize each year are new to us or have never had a prescription filled in our pharmacy. If you are also promoting other immunizations at the same time (shingles, pertussis, pneumonia), that also results in additional sales. And your customers LOVE the fact that they can get flu shots at their convenience and they get a couple of minutes of your undivided attention. For some people, it’s practically a social event! Why wouldn’t all pharmacists want to be doing immunizations?”
Looking to get started? Check out the Immunization Resource Center, which includes the course, Creating an Immunization Niche in the Community Pharmacy: a business guide. This education program will give the immunization-certified community pharmacist a set of take-home tools to launch a successful immunization and vaccination niche. Providing immunizations is a shining example of how community pharmacists provide access to quality patient care, while adding to their bottom line.