4 Ways to Attract Travelers to Your Pharmacy

Pharmacists interested in providing more services to patients traveling domestically or abroad can tap into a big business opportunity.

Pharmacists interested in providing more services to patients traveling domestically or abroad can tap into a big business opportunity.

Beverly Schaefer, RPh, of Katterman’s Sand Point Pharmacy gave a presentation on expanding travel immunization services and complementary travel products at the 2015 National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) Annual Convention, which took place October 10-14, 2015, in Washington, DC.

Schaefer covered how pharmacists can build a travel vaccine niche and successfully market their services and products to the 30 million Americans who travel internationally each year.

“Travel is big business,” Schaefer said. “And whether you know it or not, your customers are traveling.”

She outlined the 4 main reasons why a customer will come into a pharmacy before a trip and what pharmacists should know about the following travel-related services:

1. Travel immunizations

The most common travel immunization is hepatitis A, since the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that anyone leaving the country should receive this vaccine.

The hepatitis B vaccine is less commonly requested, as it is only recommended for needle-sharers, those who engage in risky sexual behavior, patients interested in getting tattoos or piercings, and those who will be out of the country for more than 6 months.

Other common vaccines that travelers may want include typhoid, yellow fever, flu, meningitis, polio, rabies, Japanese encephalitis, and tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (TDaP).

Schaefer noted that the yellow fever vaccine is 1 of 2 required travel vaccines for entry into certain countries. To provide this vaccine, pharmacists will be need to get an official stamp issued by their state health department and yellow cards, also known as the International Certificate of Immunization.

For patients receiving the yellow fever vaccine, Schaefer also noted that pharmacists should educate them on personal protective measures (PPM) against insect bites.

The second vaccine that is mandatory for travel is the meningococcal meningitis vaccine, which is required for entry into Saudi Arabia.

Regarding rabies, Schaefer said pharmacists should remind patients to stay away from feral animals abroad, even if they have received a rabies shot, as it does not totally prevent the disease.

“This is not a bullet-proof vest,” Schaefer said of the rabies vaccine. “You would still seek medical attention [if you’re bit].”

Schaefer has heard various rabies stories in her time at the pharmacy. In one case, a family was in Thailand and their child fed a piece of pineapple to a monkey, who then bit the kid’s hand.

“Don’t feed monkeys pineapple. Don’t go near dogs that appear friendly,” she said. “All animals should be considered wild animals when you’re traveling.”

Meanwhile, Japanese encephalitis is an uncommon travel-acquired infection. However, patients who will be spending time in irrigated rice paddies during monsoon season or staying more than 2 weeks in an endemic area can be at increased risk for the disease.

2. OTC travel recommendations

At Katterman’s, Schaefer has found success in setting up a travel product section near the pharmacy. This section contains products like Imodium, wound healing gel, sleeping aids, bug repellant, and Band-Aids.

Schaefer also offers guidance to patients expecting to experience altitude and motion sickness.

“All of these medications are preventive…You don’t have to do any diagnosing,” Schaefer said. “This is not rocket science. What people are looking for is access to prevention.”

Schaefer also includes hand-written recommendations on some products, such as sunscreen. Her pharmacy’s travel section also has small packages of toothpaste, soap, shampoo, and conditioner.

3. Travel consults

In her presentation at NCPA, Schaefer discussed what kind of travel consults her pharmacy offers and how she is compensated for those services.

Travel clinics in Schaefer’s area charge anywhere from $160 to $225 for a consultation fee, but at Katterman’s, patients are charged for the immunizations and then just a $40 consultation fee—making it a more affordable option in the community.

In about 15 minutes, the travel consults cover where the patient is traveling, how soon he or she is traveling, concerns about chronic conditions, and assessments of immunization and travel medication needs.

“Make the experience enjoyable and personable,” Schaefer advised.

Her travel consults also cover PPM, including reminders that patients should not walk barefoot, put their toothbrush on the bathroom counter, or swim in fresh water.

Schaefer also highlighted the CDC’s Health Information for International Travel, which is updated every 2 years and has information on each country’s vaccine requirements.

4. Travel accessories

In addition to OTC travel products, Katterman’s also carries travel accessories such as small purses, sleep masks, pillows, sun hats, electronic adapters, kids’ activities, books, and compression hose.

To add a personal touch, Schaefer also collects globes and bookmarks from her customers’ travels around the world, which raises awareness of the pharmacy’s traveling interest and services.

Some of the “homework” Schaefer assigned to NCPA attendees included putting a sign on the pharmacy door about available travel immunizations, starting an application to provide the yellow fever vaccine, creating a travel end cap for patients to browse, and marketing travel services through various channels, such as the pharmacy website, social media pages, and message on the pharmacy’s phone line.

Pharmacists can also find out what their local travel clinics are charging for their services, and reach out to universities, church groups, and scouts to let them know that they can get their travel immunizations at the pharmacy.