What pharmacists need to know
The path to success lies in establishing robust systems of inventory, planning, reporting and community communication.
Inventory planning may bring back memories of spring 2021, when different vaccines first became available and the need for testing declined in many places. This time, the inventory needs are more complex.
Pharmacists will need to know the exact amounts of Pfizer and Moderna booster doses if they are ultimately approved, as well as tracking third injections for those eligible. They will also need to monitor the stock of COVID-19 tests for expected consumer demand and meet Biden’s demands for employers.
Pharmacists will also need to ensure that they have the necessary personal protective equipment to deal with increased clinical activity and should do so while keeping an eye on vaccine and flu test levels, which will be also in demand. Your best bet is to figure out what you have, take action to get the supplies you need, and be vigilant in following through.
In a nutshell, planning will be more difficult because different people will need boosters or third injections of different drugs at different times. You will also need to consider on-demand and scheduled COVID-19 testing. For most pharmacists, the solution will come from expanding your current scheduling system to include information on recalls / tests and instructions on how to make an appointment.
Ideally, the system will allow you to send electronic results / receipts directly to the patient for their records, having the schedule and results in one system. Planning could also provide the opportunity to provide group services given the expanding vaccine and testing requirements.
Pharmacists can and should seek to partner with schools and employers with more than 100 people to provide services in a practical setting.
Similar to scheduling, reporting will have additional complexities due to different doses and the need to report more test results. Pharmacists should be used to more intensive reporting, given guidelines released June 4 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for COVID-19 testing. The HHS has asked pharmacists to enter full demographic information and report test results daily.
Ideally, pharmacists will be able to extend their current reporting capabilities to absorb increased activity and additional tracking. Pharmacists can include more intensive questionnaires to facilitate patient monitoring and notification.
Additionally, pharmacists can use their reporting systems to assist employers, who will be required to submit test results to the federal government. Small employers, in particular, may not have adequate reporting systems in place and would benefit from a pharmacist partner.
Americans rank pharmacists among the most honest and ethical professionals, according to a Gallup poll. The general public, in addition to having a high level of confidence and ease with pharmacists, also has more contact with pharmacists than with other health professionals.
Pharmacists should expect and be prepared for an influx of patient questions regarding third injections, including what dose they should receive and when, if there are any differences in effectiveness and what possible side effects are. These patients will also want to know the best way to show employers and others that they are adhering to vaccine doses and / or show COVID-19 test results.
One way to meet the demand is to be prepared for these questions with materials that provide answers. Another is the inclusion of patient data in their planning communications.
For example, the message to the patient might inform them that they are eligible for a third injection at that time, and the plan is to give the same reminder as the first 2 injections for increased effectiveness.
Having a quick “what you need to know” flyer – electronic or printed – to review before service will also be helpful.
Coping with the increased activity with the confluence of the influenza season and the ongoing pandemic will require planning, patience and a commitment to productivity. The good news is that pharmacists are trained in such situations and have the ability to adapt to complexity.
COVID-19 is forcing pharmacists to practice at the peak of their license, which the community has proven they are able to do with enthusiasm.
About the Author
Paige Clark, RPh, is the Vice President of Pharmacy Programs and Policy at Prescryptive, overseeing the company’s policy work to raise awareness, use and reach of trusted independent pharmacists nationwide. Prior to Prescryptive, Paige spent 11 years at the College of Pharmacy at Oregon State University, leading policy initiatives for state-licensed pharmacists, including prescribing birth control and smoking cessation services. Paige has also worked as a pharmacy consultant for the Oregon Board of Pharmacy, managing rule writing, legislative efforts, and regional and national policy work. She is a frequent speaker and speaker at national industry conferences and the recipient of several awards, including several honors for pharmacist of the year.
President Biden’s COVID-19 Plan | The White House
Pharmacists Remain Among the Most Trusted and Ethical Professionals (pharmacytimes.com)
Booster shots and third doses of COVID-19 vaccines: what you need to know | Johns Hopkins Medicine