Pharmacist-administered immunization opportunities are expanding
As the National Community Pharmacists Association Annual Convention concluded recently, I headed home to Richmond for a few days of R&R, Hurricane Michael cleanup and, yes, a couple of scheduled physician appointments. Each visit required the requisite paperwork to ensure that the information in my patient record was complete and current. One of the questions — “Have you received your flu shot this year?” — caused me to reflect on my days as an immunizing pharmacist and the impact pharmacists have had on immunization rates.
Pharmacists have been involved with vaccines since the 1800s, but only for the past 20 years have they been actively involved in the routine immunization of patients. As the emphasis on preventive care continues to grow, many states are expanding the role of pharmacists as experts in immunizations. Currently, immunization is the No. 1 patient care service offered by community pharmacy, highlighting the important role pharmacists play in public health. According to the 2018 NCPA Digest, 73% of community pharmacies offer immunization services. If you subscribe to the glass-half-empty mentality, only 73% of independent community pharmacies offer immunizations.
Life-saving vaccines have a profound impact on the entire nation. Today, almost everyone can receive immunizations against 17 once-common and potentially deadly infectious diseases in the United States. However, many patients still fall through the cracks because providers fail to ask about such things as travel plans, school health needs or if they have received immunizations for high-risk environments. Although we have come a long way, nearly eradicating so many vaccine- preventable illnesses, we still have some work to do on getting our current immunization trends and populations up to date. For example, on one end of the spectrum, the percentage of patients across every age group has improved for influenza coverage. Conversely, the need for immunization improvement remains in the area of pneumococcal disease, which is lingering below Healthy People 2020 targets.
Offering immunizations provides opportunities for pharmacies far beyond the revenue that is generated from this service. Pharmacy-based immunization services help build a relationship based on trust between the patient and the pharmacist, leading the patient to rely more and more on the pharmacist for a wide array of such services as counseling, OTC recommendations, prescription delivery, health screenings, medication therapy management services and traditional prescription dispensing. Immunizations go a long way toward branding the pharmacy as a destination for health and wellness, an important differentiator in today’s competitive marketplace.
Finally, immunizations are a core service set for pharmacies participating in such enhanced services networks as CPESN. These pharmacies are required to screen patients for ACIP-recommended immunizations, educate patients about needed immunizations, or refer to other healthcare providers. In today’s healthcare environment, with the focus on collaborative, team-based care, it is critical that we try to eliminate any remaining and, in some cases, perceived barriers — i.e., physician opposition — to providing this important public health service.
As America’s most accessible healthcare providers, pharmacists are up to the challenge. Let’s get to work.
John Beckner is senior director of strategic initiatives for the National Community Pharmacists Association.
A ‘sharp’ solution for immunization season
Mail-back programs can make navigating flu season stress-free for retail pharmacies
Immunization season is upon us, which means it’s critical for retail pharmacists to take necessary steps to ensure their sharps practices are safe, secure and compliant. Additionally, American consumers increasingly are skipping a trip to the doctor’s office and instead visiting their local pharmacy for their annual flu shot.
According to a recent Stericycle report, 25% of Americans prefer to get their flu shot at their local pharmacy, which means that pharmacies can expect more foot traffic, more vaccine administrations and more sharps disposals than in years prior. Further research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that 17% of immunizations are provided at employer locations, with a high percentage of this segment conducted by traveling retail pharmacists.
With that, mail-back programs play a critical role when it comes to helping pharmacists maintain safety and productivity throughout this busy season, whether they are administering immunizations on-site at retail pharmacies or off-site at offices, schools or clinics. In fact, the mail-back system has been the primary collection and disposal process at all national and local-branded retailers since 2010, when pharmacies in all 50 states became eligible to administer flu shots.
Here are some examples of how sharps mail-back containers are helping retail pharmacists maintain compliance and quality care as their role becomes more patient-focused.
Streamlining compliance standards
As the immunizer market shifts to retail settings, pharmacy leaders need to ensure their regulatory standards are up to par. Disposing of needles — in any setting — is highly regulated by OSHA and the U.S. Department of Transportation, as well as state and local officials. Navigating these various regulatory channels is challenging for facilities of all sizes, which means it’s critical that pharmacies review requirements of federal or state processes around sharps disposal.
Partnering with a third-party waste management expert will help ensure compliance with regulatory requirements concerning medical waste.
Because sharps are a regulated waste, only the United States Postal Service or a licensed medical waste transporter can transport these properly packaged systems for disposal in most cases. When properly packaged by a pharmacist, mail-back containers will meet all requirements for sending sharps waste to a disposal site through USPS. Because the container is provided with prepaid postage, retail pharmacists only have to fill out a quick form and place the container in the mail, allowing them to focus on patient care.
Fast-paced, high-volume environments can lead to stress, fatigue and, inherently, employee errors. As the role of retail pharmacists continues to transform from dispensing medications to also providing on-site patient immunizations, it’s critical that pharmacy leaders provide adequate training to create a culture around sharps safety and injury prevention.
Mail-back programs allow retail pharmacies to streamline the process of collecting and disposing of sharps, while reducing staff exposure to needlesticks, as well as mitigate risks around institutional diversion.
The convenience and simplicity of mail-back programs enable retail pharmacists to get back to the work that matters. Maintaining compliance throughout the year is critical, but especially when productivity levels need to remain high during such busy periods as immunization season. Stericycle’s assortment of turnkey mail-back systems help retail pharmacies maintain a safe and healthful workplace, providing everything needed to properly and safely dispose of sharps or small quantities of biohazardous waste. Stericycle’s systems are comprised of custom-designed, FDA-cleared, mailable sharps containers; a prepaid postage return-by-mail shipping box; manifest; and instructions for easy use. Proof of proper disposal is then provided for your records.
Enrico Vona is vice president of healthcare national accounts at Stericycle.
Rising Stars: HRG highlights top product launches from October
The new product team at Waukesha, Wis.-based Hamacher Resource Group keeps busy, and October was no exception. The team evaluated 120 products that launched during the month across OTC, beauty and wellness categories. Of the total products, roughly 49% (58 products) were beauty, 28% (34 products) were wellness-focused and 23% (28 products) were OTC-focused. The standouts were:
WaxRx Ear Wash Refill Kit
Dr. Easy, makers of the WaxRx ear wash system, added an option to refill the system in October. The kit includes ear drops with chamomile and aloe to soothe the ear, as well as a pH-conditioning ear rinse used after earwax removal. The ear rinse is designed to balance the ear’s pH to reduce risk of infection.
Listerine Ready! Tabs, Clean Mint
The latest from Johnson & Johnson’s Listerine brand, Ready! Tabs transform in a user’s mouth from solid to liquid. Users simply chew to activate the tabs, swish the liquid around and then swallow after 30 seconds. The product is alcohol-free to make it safe to swallow, and the company said it is formulated to last for hours.
Kamedis Calm Eczema Therapy Wash
Kamedis Dermatology, maker of botanical-based skin care products, expanded its offerings with its Calm Eczema Therapy Wash. The product is formulated for skin that is extremely dry, red, itchy and irritated due to eczema. Its botanicals are meant to work in combination to provide prebiotic properties that the company said contribute to overall skin health.
Neutrogena Makeup Remover Cleansing Towelette Singles
In an effort to make makeup removal easier on-the-go, J&J’s Neutrogena brand debuted these individually wrapped face wipes — a more portable version of its mainstay makeup removing towelettes. The product is packaged in bags of 20 wipes that the company said are ideal for on-the-go.
Mucinex Children’s Stuffy Nose Nasal Spray
Reckitt Benckiser has extended its Mucinex brand’s offerings with Mucinex Children’s Stuffy Nose Nasal Spray, meant for children age six years old and older — the first for this age group for the brand. The nasal spray is formulated to last as long as 12 hours to relieve stuffy noses.