COVID-19 Testing, Immunizations Offer New Opportunities to Gain and Retain Patients

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Many patients have turned to pharmacies for immunizations and testing during the pandemic, creating great opportunities for pharmacies to grow their patient population.

Community care offerings such as coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) testing, expanded point-of-care testing, and immunizations are a great opportunity to bring in new patients and retain them, according to a session on Thursday at the Pharmacy Development Services (PDS) Innovate in a Day virtual event.

Many patients have turned to pharmacies during the COVID-19 pandemic, both for testing and immunizations. These 2 opportunities also present their own challenges, including sourcing, workflow changes, revenue and reimbursement issues, and techniques for improving patient engagement.

During the session, Chris Girard, product manager of point of care at Becton Dickinson, said that when it comes to sourcing, independent pharmacies have a lot to consider. In addition to obtaining a clinical laboratory improvement amendment (CLIA) waiver, pharmacies should consider which tests and immunizations they will provide, what personal protective equipment they might require, and whether continuing education will be necessary in order to provide those offerings.

Girard added that although the COVID-19 vaccine has dominated discussions lately, providing other immunizations continues to be important. Pharmacies should consider stocking flu shots, Tdap vaccines, and travel vaccinations, especially as the pandemic ends and patients begin traveling again.

Along with these offerings, however, come necessary changes in workflow. Lauren Simko, PharmD, managing performance specialist at PDS, said pharmacists should consider how to best utilize the 15 minutes after administering a COVID-19 vaccine when the patient must be observed.

Although there may not be time for a 15-minute conversation, this is a great opportunity to introduce yourself and your pharmacy offerings, Simko said. Then, pharmacists could make follow-up phone calls or do other necessary work while still monitoring the patient.

Tiffany Hatcher, PharmD, RPh, clinical assistant professor at Duquesne University, agreed that pharmacists have a great opportunity with that 15-minute window. She explained the SHARE model, which outlines how pharmacists can approach vaccine discussions with patients in order to increase patient engagement.

First, pharmacists should share why the recommended vaccine is right for the patient, tailoring the reasoning to the patient’s age, risk factors, and other concerns. Then, they should highlight positive experiences with the vaccine, address the patient’s questions and concerns, remind patients that vaccinations are also a public health issue, and explain the cost versus benefit.

In addition to applying to the COVID-19 vaccines, Hatcher said the SHARE model can be used to discuss any vaccines. She added that additional vaccines to consider stocking include Prevnar 13, Pneumovax 23, Shingrix, Tdap, and hepatitis B. Furthermore, pharmacists and technicians should be encouraged to take continuing education courses on vaccine administration, whether they are learning it for the first time or just refreshing their memories.

REFERENCE

Simko L, Girard C, Hatcher T, Stoner M. Fire Up Growth: New Patients & Non-PBM Revenue. Presented at: Pharmacy Development Services Innovate in a Day. February 11, 2021.

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