Providing an Immunization Program in your pharmacy is a great way to diversify your pharmacy’s offerings and revenue streams, while also filling an important community need. Help your patients and take control back from the PBMs.
Before You Start an Immunization Program:
Consider the clinical (and business!) benefits for your pharmacy.
- Expand your service mix beyond traditional dispensing services
- Don’t lose prescription revenue from customers who transfer their prescriptions over to a competing pharmacy that offers core and seasonal vaccines
- Complement and support other chronic disease management services that you offer
- Improve the overall health status of your community and become the clinical service hub of the area
- Support medication adherence services like synchronization
How do I Get Started With Immunizations?
1. Understand State Regulations Regarding Pharmacist Vaccine Administration
State regulations determine which vaccines can be administered to what types of patients. Not all pharmacists can give all vaccines to all patients.
The first step is to know what’s permitted in the pharmacy’s own state. One of the most common restrictions is age as some states don’t allow pharmacists to administer vaccines to children under age 18.
Pharmacists need to be certified to administer vaccines in the pharmacy. They are required to take an ACPE-accredited immunization (like APHA’s course). Pharmacists must also be CPR certified and take a bloodborne pathogen or OSHA training.
Another regulatory consideration is reporting requirements. Some states require pharmacies to report the vaccines given and who received them to a state immunization registry.
It is also important to consider whether a state requires pharmacists to have collaborative practice agreements with physicians in order to administer vaccines. Collaborative agreements with physicians allow eligible pharmacists to administer vaccines to patients without individual prescriptions.
2. Understand How You Get Paid!
Independent pharmacies are hesitant to launch immunization programs due to complex and confusing reimbursement rules that dictate how pharmacies can bill for vaccines.
This is less of a barrier with the HHS order for Pharmacies to get paid for administration of the COVID 19 Vaccines.
If a pharmacy serves Medicare patients, it must go through the process of getting a PTAN as Medicare Part B provider in order to bill Medicare for vaccines including COVID Vaccines as a medical benefit.
It’s important you automate billing and collections for vaccine services through technology by outsource billing and collections through a third-party vendor. You want too be able to focus on providing clinical services. Hire the billing to professionals!
3. Have a Plan to Manage Vaccine Inventory and Supplies
Consider the requirements before ordering your first shipment of any vaccine. For example, planning and ordering flu vaccines for the next flu season starts before the previous flu season ends.
Pharmacies should know the storage requirements for the vaccines they intend to administer. The CDC has guidelines for each type. Some require refrigeration. Others require freezing. That requires a way to monitor temperatures.
In terms of physical space, pharmacies should create a private area in which they administer vaccines to patients. A private room is worth the investment.
4. Organize Your Workflow
Pharmacies should think about and walk through their workflows prior to starting a vaccine practice.
- How will the pharmacy take walk-ins?
- Will you train all the pharmacists?
- How will appointments be made?
As most experienced immunizing pharmacists can attest, actually giving a dose of a vaccine takes the least amount of time during the entire process. More time is spent by patients and pharmacies completing medical history forms, filling out consent forms, checking and verifying insurance benefits, copying health insurance cards and identification cards, billing for services and arranging and making payments.
Pharmacies should assign the most appropriate person to perform each task, ideally having technicians and other staff do most of the non-clinical work and leaving the pharmacist to administer the vaccine. The goal is not to disrupt the normal workflow of taking, filling and dispensing prescriptions and refills but integrate this new service into the workflow seamlessly.
5. MARKETING, MARKETING, MARKETING to Promote Your Immunization Program and Your Clinical Services!
It’s important for independent pharmacies to promote their programs via multichannel marketing campaigns. Your first target should be your current pharmacy patients.
A note about COVID vaccinations – this opportunity is driving new patients to you for FREE!! Spend the time and money to make sure you are getting all contact information for later programs. Also be sure you are educating your staff on how to make these COVID Vaccine patients NEW patients to your Pharmacy.
Vaccine programs can serve as gateways for pharmacies to grow their clinical operations. They can learn what it takes to run a clinical program and become comfortable adding other clinical services to their business. In doing so, they can expand their businesses to succeed in today’s industry.
Need More Information?
Learn more about how Community Pharmacists Make a Difference With Immunizations, written by PDS member, Travis Wolff, PharmD and Emma Leffler, PharmD. If you still need more help deciding if starting an immunization program is right for you, schedule a call with PDS and sign up for the 2021 Super-Conference in May.