In the US, getting the Covid-19 vaccine is as easy as walking into a pharmacy. In the spring of 2021, chains including Walmart, Walgreens and Safeway began offering vaccines to walk-in clients as well as same-day appointments in store locations and mobile clinics up and down the country.
Worldwide, a growing number of the millions of Covid vaccine doses administered is delivered by pharmacists.
This is not the first time pharmacies play an important role in contributing to the success of vaccination programs. Every winter, they lead effective influenza vaccination campaigns that help prevent hospitalizations, ensuring adequate access and uptake of flu jabs, especially for at-risk groups. Research indicates that uptake rates 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 pharmacies are now ready to play a bigger role in immunization programs.
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 other vaccines, and be allowed to enhance their contribution to global health systems.
Global professional services firm PWC believe 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 lay ahead.
Keeping up with customer demand
In the US, even if people can walk in to get a COVID 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 future.
“The future of pharmacy needs to be seamless,” said McKesson UK CEO Toby Anderson. “People should be able to switch easily between our digital and physical services to find what works best for them. We know that there are four things our customers value above all else: convenience, simplicity, expertise and a personal touch.”
Consumers expect retail brands to provide them with seamless, integrated experiences across all channels. 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 their customers need, anytime, anywhere. If you want to know how you can transform your pharmacy chain to be ready for tomorrow, contact us.