The COVID-19 pandemic has shined a light on the important role pharmacists play as part of the healthcare continuum. With a focus on upcoming COVID-19 vaccines, the need for convenient access to immunizations has never been more apparent. Independent pharmacists can offer vital community healthcare services by launching immunizations programs in their pharmacy. Keep reading to learn about the importance of immunizations programs, how they benefit independent pharmacies, and the implications for COVID-19 vaccine delivery.
Importance of Immunizations Programs
On average, 90,000 Americans die each year of diseases that can be prevented by vaccines. Life-saving vaccines and immunizations can decrease healthcare costs and reduce the spread of preventable diseases. The role of community pharmacists is crucial to disease prevention, and independent pharmacies can administer vaccines and immunizations to millions of patients each year.
Pharmacists in all 50 states are able to administer vaccines and immunizations. In addition to deploying immunizations, pharmacists are great resources for vaccine and immunization education. As part of their training and continuing education, pharmacists are well-versed in the recommendations for immunizations. They can educate patients on the recommended immunizations for children and adults, including a timeline for vaccines.
Pharmacists are accessible healthcare providers, and patients visit their pharmacy more times on average per year than other healthcare providers. Convenient access makes pharmacists a great resource for vaccine deployment. Because vaccines are underutilized, especially among adult populations, pharmacists can provide valuable information to their community. As more pharmacists offer vaccinations and immunization programs, patients have increased access points for receiving life-saving care that can decrease healthcare costs.
How does an independent pharmacy benefit from an immunizations program?
In addition to saving lives and improving patient outcomes, immunization programs have considerable benefits for independent pharmacies. Adding a new line of service or starting a niche adds revenue for the pharmacy. It also generates more traffic to the pharmacy, increasing prescription and OTC sales.
Offering an immunizations program can also help build trust in the community. Patients learn to seek out their pharmacist as a care provider, relying on them for routine clinical services. The pharmacist is a community resource for valuable information on immunizations for children and adults.
Tips for Starting an Immunization Program for a Community Pharmacy
Some pharmacy owners do not take advantage of the benefits an immunizations program can offer because the prospect of starting a program seems daunting. Research on the regulations from your state pharmacy board and immunizations programs and reporting capabilities integrated with your pharmacy management system can make the task more manageable. Use the following tips to establish your own immunization program for your pharmacy.
- Review the standards set by your state pharmacy board. By visiting their website or contacting them directly, you will learn which immunizations you can provide and any regulations specific to your state.
- Attend immunization training through your local school of pharmacy or state pharmacy association. In addition to attending an immunization course, you should receive CPR training and a CPR card.
- Apply for an immunization license with your state pharmacy board. Depending on your state, the process can take a few weeks or a few months.
- A Medicare Part B Mass Immunizer number can help you provide immunization services to Medicare Part B patients. This is a great option if you want to grow your immunizations program quickly.
- Maintain proper immunization documentation. Your state pharmacy board has specific policies and procedures for immunization documentation and reporting. Failure to comply with these regulations could result in penalties.
Implications for Vaccine Delivery
With a COVID-19 vaccine on the horizon, independent pharmacists can play a major role in vaccine deployment. The TDS network alone consists of more than 8,000 pharmacies across the U.S. and Puerto Rico, serving more than 23 million patients per year. The volume of patient touchpoints available to independent pharmacists enables them to take some of the load off primary care providers. 93% of Americans are within a five-mile radius of a community pharmacy. Convenient access to COVID-19 vaccines through community pharmacies could be vital for both rural and urban populations.
On September 9, 2020, the Department of Health and Human Services issued guidance to expand COVID-19 vaccine deployment once a vaccine is available. State-licensed pharmacists are authorized to order and administer COVID-19 vaccines, subject to certain requirements. Enabling pharmacists to deliver COVID-19 vaccines expands access to vital healthcare services for citizens across the country.
TDS is committed to providing the resources and tools independent pharmacists need to establish immunizations programs and deploy vaccines. State reporting and documentation are integrated with our pharmacy management software to help pharmacists remain compliant and patient scheduling tools help pharmacists maximize their efficiency without interrupting day-to-day pharmacy operations. Contact us today to learn more about starting an immunization program in your pharmacy with the help of a complete pharmacy management solution.