Every year, millions of adults are hospitalized and thousands of adults die from vaccine-preventable diseases. Improving immunization rates is a critical public health issue, and it begins with helping patients understand which vaccinations they need in order to be immunized from life-threatening diseases.
The pharmacy is a logical setting for educating patients on recommended vaccines and improving immunization rates. Patients visit their pharmacy five times more often than they visit other healthcare providers, and pharmacists consistently rank among the most trusted professionals in the United States. This combination of patient access and patient trust perfectly positions pharmacists to make a positive impact on immunization rates. In addition, proposed mergers like CVS and Aetna will start to drive even more people to the pharmacy for immunizations and other clinical services, as risk-bearing entities look for convenient, lower-cost settings of care for their membership.
Although 25% of all influenza vaccinations are now administered in the pharmacy, less than 3% of patients who receive a flu shot also receive an appropriate companion vaccine. Improving outcomes begins by empowering people with information — patients need to understand which additional vaccines they need beyond influenza, and pharmacists need reliable, actionable data in order to educate patients appropriately on these opportunities.
Historically, determining patient indication for a particular vaccine required accessing data from multiple sources — confirming ACIP (Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices) guidelines, validating a patient’s immunization history, and verifying eligibility based on the payer’s requirements — which was time-consuming and disruptive to the pharmacy’s workflow. The entire process is reminiscent of the Seinfeld episode where George Costanza believes he’s calling a “movie phone” service to inquire about upcoming show times, which in actuality is nothing more than his friend Kramer on the other end trying to guess which movie a caller wants information on. A better solution is to harness the power of technology in order to synthesize the data and simply tell the pharmacist, when appropriate, what vaccine is required. Or as Kramer famously blurts out at the end of the movie phone scene, “Why don’t you just tell me what movie you want to see!”
During the 2017–2018 immunization season, OmniSYS proved the efficacy of personalized, targeted recommendations from the pharmacist for flu companion vaccines. Pneumococcal vaccination rates increased from an industry average of only 3% to over 23% when pharmacists were provided with accurate, actionable information that was both patient and vaccine specific. 20,000 pharmacies utilized our vaccine management service, which identified 800,000-plus companion vaccine opportunities and resulted in over 180,000 pneumococcal vaccines being successfully administered. And for patients who chose not to receive the companion vaccine during the initial encounter, the pharmacy was able to follow up with targeted educational outreach.
The role of the pharmacy is evolving. Pharmacies that are able to embrace this evolution will not only grow their business, but also make a positive impact on adult immunization rates and overall population health. CT
John King is the chief executive officer of OmniSYS. He focuses on driving innovation and delivering high-impact solutions that enable customers to grow their businesses. With over 25 years of sales and operational expertise in healthcare and information technology, John has devoted his career to advancing health through the creation and adoption of innovative solutions.