Flu season is back with a vengeance, and it’s been hitting unusually hard this year. While the sniffles, sneezes, and fevers usually begin around October, they arrived about six weeks earlier this season and with uncharacteristically high illness. Experts are projecting the worst flu season in 13 years. Add to that the threat of COVID-19 and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus), and you’ve got patients lining up at your pharmacy counter in droves. But are you ready?
If you haven’t already, set up your scheduling system so you’re prepared. Make sure you and your staff have a system in place for when things get busy. Be sure it’s clear what vaccines you are administering and prepare for multiple lanes of both scheduling and vaccines. You’ll need enough room to accommodate a swarm of patients needing immunizations while also maintaining social distancing. It’s also a good idea to know where required areas will be for service delivery.
Get your staff members ready by giving them specific tasks for the duration of their shift. Split the tasks up according to roles (pharmacy students, interns, technicians, or assistants), and be sure they’re supervised. Make sure that all staff members are trained on pharmacy protocols, injection-related policies, appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) use, hand hygiene, and infection prevention and control procedures.
The workflow at and behind your pharmacy counter needs to be established for each part of the vaccination process. Your staff should be ready to: gather patient information and provide instruction before the patient arrives at your pharmacy; screen the patient for COVID-19 and answer any questions upon their arrival at the pharmacy; wear the appropriate PPE; perform hand hygiene when delivering the immunization; clean and disinfect the immunization area; and monitor the flow of patients between and after immunizations.
Now that your pharmacy staff is ready, take a look at your store shelves. Do you have all of the products your patients will need this flu season? Do you have enough? Increasing your store’s inventory of flu-related items is vital if you want to keep up with patient needs and demand. Shortages will happen, but the more flu- and cold-related inventory you stock up on ahead of time, the better prepared you’ll be.
Use this checklist below to make sure your pharmacy has what your patients will need most during this cold, flu, and COVID season.
OTC Cold Medicines
- Fever, headache, and body aches: Ibuprofen, acetaminophen, aspirin, and naproxen
- Congestion: Oxymetazoline, phenylephrine, pseudoephedrine
- Cough: Guaifenesin and Dextromethorphan
- Multi-symptom: Nyquil, Dayquil, Mucinex, generic equivalents, etc.
Prescription Flu Treatments
- Oseltamivir (Tamiflu)
- Zanamivir (Relenza)
- Peramivir (Rapivab)
- Baloxavir (Xofluza)
- Elderberry: This is a powerful alternative to both prevent and fight cold and flu. Studies have shown it to significantly reduce the severity and duration of symptoms. Patients who have taken elderberry syrup reported symptoms clearing up on average of four days earlier than those taking a placebo.
- Vitamin C: Studies have shown that this vitamin can boost your immune system. It may even help protect against heart disease, cancer, and stroke.
- Vitamin D: When the sun is behind the clouds, it’s hard to soak up enough of this vitamin. Vitamin D can strengthen both your bones and your immune system.
- Iron: An immune booster that has shown to help keep energy levels up, iron is essential to blood flow and oxygen transfer in the blood. It’s a key component to heart, lung, and neurological function.
- Zinc: If used regularly, zinc can help to prevent the common cold. Like elderberry, it strengthens the immune system and can aid in reducing the length and severity of a common cold. According to the Mayo Clinic, the recommended daily amount of zinc is 8 mg for women and 11 mg for men.
- Facial tissues
- Nasal strips
- Heating pads
- Vapor rubs
- Neti pots
- Lotion (for sore noses)
- Throat lozenges
- Canned chicken noodle soup
- Orange juice
- Hot tea
- Heated blankets
- Hand sanitizer
- Warm socks
- Hot/Cold packs
- Sports drinks
Once your pharmacy is stocked and ready for the flu season, it’s time to get the word out to your customers. The sooner, the better. You want to reduce overstock by the end of the season. Here are some ideas to get your customers interested in purchasing their cold and flu needs at your store:
- Email: Your theme is cold and flu season. Your goal is to draw attention to your flu season inventory.
- Social media: Post offers for cold-and-flu items on all of your pharmacy’s social-media pages.
- Outdoor signage: Use banners to remind passersby that your store has everything they need for cold and flu season, including vaccines. Window clings also draw attention.
- In-store signage: Set up a small counter sign reminding patients that you stock all the cold and flu essentials they need.
‘Tis the season for various, infectious bugs floating through the air. Give your patients everything they need to fight them off by stocking up on cold and flu products. Take advantage of seasonal sales with these essential items and be sure to market them properly.
Quick Tips for Flu Prep:
Estimate your needs: You don’t want to turn away patients because you’ve run out of vaccines. Do you anticipate more patients this year? Be sure to order enough vaccines to last the season.
Order Early: Your best bet is to preorder the vaccine. This will ensure that it arrives early, giving you more time to prep for the season ahead.
Prepare Information Packets: Put together some informational materials for patients on vaccines and prepare consent forms.
Review Vaccination Protocols: Be sure your staff understands the current protocols for vaccines, so they’re not administered improperly. Have they taken required continuing education training?
Register on Listing Sites: Find websites that advertise locations that administer the vaccine and register your pharmacy.
Pack Immunization Kits: Put together other supplies you’ll need when administering vaccinations (i.e. cotton, needles, and bandages).
Determine Vaccination Schedules: Will you give vaccinations only during certain hours or all day? Will you allow walk-ins, or will it be by appointment only?
Strategize Your Advertising: Will you rely on a sign advertising your flu shots, or will you also advertise via television, radio, or social media?
Practice Your Craft: Watch as your staff practices vaccinations on one another and determine problem spots.
From the Magazine
This article was published in our quarterly print magazine, which covers relevant topics in greater depth featuring leading experts in the industry. Subscribe to receive the quarterly print issue in your mailbox. All registered independent pharmacies in the U.S. are eligible to receive a free subscription.
More articles from the December 2022 issue:
- Increasing Patient-Care Services
- Your HSA Has Your Back
- Your Pharmacy’s Online Presence
- Rev Up Your Revenue in 2023
- Providing Routine Health Screenings
- The Best Apps for Your Pharmacy
- Cashing in on the Sniffles
- Aggression in the Pharmacy
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