Are you still on the fence about offering vaccinations at your pharmacy? The benefits of a pharmacy vaccination program — both for your store and your patients — are well documented. Your patients have a faster, often cheaper way to get the vaccines they need, and your business will see a profit boost from both the vaccinations themselves and the rise in front-end sales from additional customers coming through the doors.
Maybe the process itself is why you haven’t started. Surely it isn’t as simple as ordering vaccines and watching your patients line up?
It’s not. But it’s not difficult, either.
How to Start a Pharmacy Vaccination Program
While there are a few hurdles to jump through, starting a pharmacy vaccination program isn’t a complicated process. There are a few courses to take and a few applications to submit, but in the end, it will be more than worth the time you invested. So let’s get started!
Step 1: Check Your State Guidelines
Back in 1995, only 9 states allowed pharmacists to administer vaccines. Thankfully, we’ve come a long way in the last two decades. And while most states allow pharmacists to administer any vaccine, there are still limits in some states. A few states limit which types of vaccines a pharmacist can administer. Other states limit which age groups a pharmacist can vaccinate.
Let’s keep things on the up-and-up. Before you can get started, learn what your state allows by checking this list.
Step 2: Complete Your Coursework
In order to administer vaccines in a pharmacy, pharmacists need to be certified. To get this certification, they need to take an ACPE-accredited immunization and delivery course. You can find these courses at your local university’s School of Pharmacy or even your State Pharmacy Association.
In addition, pharmacists should become certified in CPR, which can be done through the American Red Cross.
Step 3: Submit Your Applications
Once you’ve completed your immunization courses and CPR training, it’s time to submit your application to your state board. Fill out your state’s application (Click here to see New Jersey’s, for example), attach all the necessary documentation, then send it off. Approval times vary by state, so be prepared to wait anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to receive your immunization license.
Also, look into how to become a Medicare Part B Mass Immunizer. Serving Medicare Part B patients will expand your outreach and get more patients into your store. You can learn more about being a Medicare Part B Mass Immunizer by reading CMS’s factsheet. You’ll find information about the application process on page 3.
Step 4: Stock Your Shelves
Next, it’s time to get the vaccine train rolling — slowly. According to John Beckner, RPh, NCPA Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives, it’s best for independent pharmacists new to administering vaccines to start slowly. Flu shots and pneumococcal vaccines are the way to start. When they’re ready, they can expand to vaccines for zoster, tetanus, hepatitis, and the MMR vaccine.
Step 5: Get Your Standing Orders in Order
Standing orders allow you to assess patients and administer vaccines without direct orders from a provider. Once you have established which vaccines you are going to offer, you should get standing orders from a medical director or a physician that will allow you to administer those vaccines without a prescription.
Step 6: Determine How You’re Going to Bill
You’ve picked your vaccine offerings. You’ve got standing orders to administer them. Now, it’s time to get your payments squared away. Some vaccines are covered under prescription drug benefits, while others are covered under the medical benefit. You need to determine how each vaccine needs to be billed and have a plan in place. Billing solutions, like FDS MedBill, can make this much easier.
Step 7: Promote, Promote, Promote!
Your patients won’t line up for vaccinations if they don’t know you offer them. It’s time for some strategic marketing efforts. Since you’re targeting your community, you can get the word out without spending too much.
In your store, promote your vaccination program while you’re with patients at the counter or ringing them up at the register. Put up flyers or stickers for flu shots in the cold/flu section of your OTC drugs. Slip flyers into your patients’ bags after they make a purchase.
In the community, take out some ad space in the local newspaper, and make sure to also look into advertising with the newspaper’s online distribution. To add incentive, maybe include a coupon for $5 off any in-store purchase when patients receive their flu shots. Since most vaccines are covered by insurance at no cost to the patient, they’ll see it as free money — and rightly so. And your reimbursement should more than cover the amount of the coupon.
According to the NCPA, 61 percent of community pharmacies have already started offering vaccines, and many others are in the process of starting. So if you were waiting for the right time to begin the process… you’re already behind.
Don’t wait. Get started on your pharmacy vaccination program, and take one step closer to becoming a New Era Pharmacy.