Independent pharmacy owners can capitalize on immunization encounters, especially for COVID-19 vaccinations, to attract and retain new patients. A session during the 2021 Pharmacy Development Services (PDS) Innovate in a Day Virtual Event on February 11 discussed how pharmacy owners can leverage immunization interactions to promote store offerings and keep patients coming back.1
“For many of us, this COVID-19 vaccine is going to spark the initial flame and be that initial driver for individuals into our pharmacies,” Tiffany Hatcher, PharmD, RPh, clinical assistant professor at Duquesne University, said during the presentation. “It’s our duty, as not only the pharmacist, but [for] the entire team, to understand how you create that positive experience.”
Vaccination services offer ample opportunity to attract new and existing patients to your store. Once a new patient walks through your doors, their experience in your store can be a deciding factor in whether they return. However, it is important to remember that the pandemic has shortened the window of time for patient interaction.
“With COVID-19, the concern is there, and you’re getting 15 minutes per shot to interact with your patient,” said Lauren Simko, PharmD, managing performance specialist at PDS. Simko noted that overcommunication is important when new patients come into the pharmacy; introduce yourself to the patient, follow up with phone calls, and encourage them to ask questions, she said. Capture crucial patient information, such as email addresses and phone numbers. Simko recommends fully engaging pharmacy staff in this effort. “You can’t do it all yourself,” she stressed.
Hatcher emphasized that each member of the pharmacy team should be able to pitch your pharmacy’s story. “Ask your technicians: What is our story? Why should patients choose us? Who are we and what can we deliver?” she said. “If we do this correctly, we have an amazing opportunity to capitalize on prescription products, OTC products, and immunizations for these patients.”
Simko also recommended using time spent with patients to highlight other products and services that make the most impact on your business. Dispensing marketing flyers, coupons, and even free OTC sample products can be excellent motivators for encouraging patients to come back.
With many Americans now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, Hatcher suggested a thoughtful approach to prioritizing the pharmacy’s supply of the vaccine. Make a list of top priority patients with whom you have strong relationships and who are most at risk, but also reserve some stock for newer patients, she said.
Taking advantage of this time with potential patients is important for ensuring they return for their second dose as well as making additional recommendations for other immunizations or services that could be beneficial. Strong recommendations involve counseling patients on why they should receive the vaccine and taking the time to use the CDC’s SHARE model, Hatcher said. The CDC suggests using the SHARE method to make a strong vaccine recommendation and provide the following important information to help patients make informed decisions about vaccinations:
Share the reasons why the vaccine is right for the patient given his or her age, health status, lifestyle, occupation, or other risk factors.
Highlight positive experiences with the vaccines, whether personal or in your practice, to reinforce the benefits and strengthen confidence.
Address patient questions and any concerns they may have. Because many patients may have concerns about the vaccine, Hatcher recommends listening empathetically and tailoring a response that will target their anxiety but still make them feel heard and valued.
Remind patients that the vaccine will protect them and their loved ones and communities. “Bringing that recognition to the patient that they are sowing a seed that’s greater than them can add value as to why they should receive it,” Hatcher said.
Explain the cost benefit of the vaccine. “We know that many vaccines are going to be covered under preventive care…if there is a copay, it’s typically something very manageable,” Hatcher said. “Have that dialogue with your patient.”
- Simko L, Hatcher T, Stoner M. Fire up growth: new patients & non-PBM revenue. Presented at: Pharmacy Development Services Innovate in a Day; February 11, 2021; virtual. Accessed February 11, 2021.