In some countries, getting a vaccine is often as easy as walking into a pharmacy. In the US for example, numerous chains like Walmart, Walgreens, and CVS are allowed to administer vaccines for several types of infections including flu, chickenpox, hepatitis, and more. Usually, these pharmacies take walk-in clients, as well as same-day appointments in store locations and mobile clinics all over the country.
But the US isn’t the only country where pharmacies can offer vaccinations. Worldwide, pharmacies are becoming key players in improving vaccination rates, not just among younger generations, but also for adults who may be more prone to vaccine-preventable diseases, according to the National Library of Medicine.
Research indicates that uptake rates for flu shots are generally higher in places that allow community pharmacists to provide these vaccinations; many people say they find the pharmacy service much more accessible, and for some, this may be the only access they have.
Now more than ever, pharmacies should be ready to play a bigger role in immunization programs. Here’s what they should consider:
With their convenient locations and extended opening hours, not to mention their strong reputation as trusted healthcare professionals, pharmacists can help both with building public confidence in vaccines and supporting mass rollouts. In effect, they’re a ready-made workforce waiting to play an even bigger part in patient care. It’s no surprise, then, that the Pharmaceutical Group of the European Union continues to push for pharmacists to have an increased role in advising on and administering vaccines and to enhance their contribution to global health systems.
Global professional services firm PWC believes pharmacies should play a larger part in the future of health. In their vision, pharmacies become a convener of plug-and-play partners, serving their local communities as a destination for primary care, prescriptions, and point-of-care diagnostics
Getting the right technology in place
For a pharmacy to be able to support vaccinations, competent staff and goodwill won’t be enough. Pharmacies also need a strong IT infrastructure that enables them to:
- Track appointments and link them to electronic patient records
- Keep control over bookings, no-shows, and late arrivals
- Offer appointments quickly and flexibly, and send information to the patient’s phone or app if there is the possibility
- Be ready for opportunities, such as pop-up vaccination stations, special consultations, etc.
While some pharmacies are already making proactive investments in their IT infrastructure to better support their patients, too many pharmacies still operate on outdated, sometimes manual processes, from paper records to Excel files (which famously were behind the UK health service’s loss of key Covid-19 infection data at the height of the pandemic).
Businesses still operating on outdated technology need to speed up their digital transformation, now – or they risk missing the new opportunities that lie ahead.
Keeping up with customer demand
In the US, even if people can walk into a pharmacy to get a vaccine, many of the chains strongly encourage customers to schedule appointments to guarantee availability. Faced with a potential surge in demand, those with the infrastructure in place to support online bookings and automatically keep track of stock will be best placed to accommodate their customers, both now and in the future.
It’s why leading pharmacy brands like McKesson have opted for LS Central for pharmacy, a unified retail and dispensing software that also includes online appointment and reservation functionality.
According to McKinsey, customers “are increasingly demanding a pharmacy experience that mirrors the rest of their retail experiences – omnichannel, convenient, and with home delivery at the center.”
Consumers expect retail brands to provide them with seamless, integrated experiences across all channels and health providers are increasingly being held to the same high standards of service. Now more than ever, pharmacies have a unique opportunity to step up and take their place as central players in the new health economy, delivering high quality, convenient health services for their customers’ needs, anytime, anywhere. If you want to know how you can transform your pharmacy chain to be ready for tomorrow, contact us.