As Flu Season Approaches, Prepare for Pharmacists' New Roles

Commentary
Article
Pharmacy TimesSeptember 2023
Volume 89
Issue 9

With back-to-school season already over and the fall rapidly approaching, health systems are bracing for another season of influenza, COVID-19, and respiratory syncytial virus.

With back-to-school season already over and the fall rapidly approaching, health systems are bracing for another season of influenza, COVID-19, and respiratory syncytial virus. Although we might be approaching this season with some trepidation after last year’s “tripledemic,” pharmacists can also see it as a new opportunity to expand and celebrate their scope.

Point-of-care (POC) testing is a growing topic, with new opportunities for pharmacists to provide crucial patient services and enhance their own revenue streams. More than 10,000 pharmacies across the country offer Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments–waived POC testing for infectious diseases, including influenza A and B, as well as group A streptococcus, according to 2022 data.1

Flu season ahead sign

Image credit: Arcady - stock.adobe.com

Providing these tests will be a critical role for pharmacists to play in the upcoming fall and winter months, not only so patients can receive appropriate and time-sensitive treatments but also to help manage the larger workload in the health care system.

In addition to POC testing, immunizations continue to be a crucial and growing part of pharmacists’ roles. Although by now we have all heard the impressive statistics for pharmacyadministered vaccines during the COVID-19 pandemic (> 307.4 million doses administered as of August 18, 2023, according to CDC data),2 pharmacists must continue to demonstrate this value year-round. In addition to seasonal influenza and COVID-19 vaccines, pharmacists administer a host of immunizations, including herpes zoster, meningitis, and travel vaccines.

This month, the Cover Feature tackles new COVID-19 and influenza vaccines that patients may be asking about. With new vaccines anticipated, pharmacists should proactively educate patients about the ongoing need for immunizations.

Legislators across the country are turning toward pharmacists for these services, as seen in the recently signed Senate Bill 219 in Michigan, authorizing pharmacists to prescribe and administer vaccines approved by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices for patients 3 years and older. This legislation is discussed in the new Feature column on page 28, as well as other key highlights from the bill.

In addition to this new column, this issue of Pharmacy Times features a new Pharmacist Spotlight, highlighting the great work done by Lydia Bailey, PharmD, BCACP, pharmacy operations manager for St Vincent de Paul Charitable Pharmacy in Cincinnati, Ohio. Each issue, we’ll feature a different pharmacist doing amazing things in their community. If you are interested in nominating yourself or another colleague, email AAntrim@pharmacytimes.com.

As always, thank you for reading.

Reference

1. Hohmeier KC, McKeirnan K, Akers J, et al. Implementing community pharmacy-based influenza point-of-care test-and-treat under collaborative practice agreement. Implement Sci Commun. 2022;3(1):77. doi:10.1186/s43058-022-00324-z

2. The Federal Retail Pharmacy Program for COVID-19 Vaccination. CDC. Updated August 18, 2023. Accessed August 24, 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/retail-pharmacy-program/index.html#:~:text=As%20of%20August%2018%2C%202023,the%20COVID%2D19%20vaccination%20program

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