by Shelley Hansell, SVP, Client Relations & Revenue Cycle Product Management
Summer is upon us, and that means immunization season is just around the corner.
The upcoming immunization season is shaping up to be the busiest ever, as flu season collides with COVID-19 and a recent poll shows that a record number of patients will likely be seeking flu vaccinations this year. In addition, one or more COVID-19 vaccines are expected to hit the market on the heels of the traditional immunization season.
Now is the time to make sure your pharmacy is operationally ready for what will be an extraordinarily long and busy immunization season. By finding ways to improve efficiencies throughout the entire process (imagine an entirely paperless immunization experience!), you will be ready for the upcoming surge in demand.
With just a couple months left to prepare, what are some steps you can take to ready your pharmacy for a respiratory virus season unlike any other?
Review Your Medical Contracts
Spend the next few weeks setting up contracts with new payers and renegotiating contracts with existing payers to ensure you will be properly reimbursed for providing immunizations. You will also need to update your billing system or billing vendor with information on the vaccines that you will have in your inventory. By proactively communicating with your vendor, the start of immunization season will be smoother as the vendor can confirm all NDC to CPT code mappings and pricing setups reflect your contracted fee schedules. Discrepancies in pricing setups may cause receivables to be over or understated.
Establish a Safe Waiting System
Think through how you will minimize crowding and maintain safety in your pharmacy when the busiest immunization season ever is in full swing. You could ask patients to remain in their cars or in an outdoor waiting area until they are called in, or allow patients to schedule an appointment in advance. You could also allow patients to complete all of their paperwork in advance on their own mobile device to avoid the use of shared pens and clipboards (more on that below). It will be important to have and communicate a plan to manage the anticipated surge to make sure your patients feel safe coming to your pharmacy for their vaccine.
Leverage Personalized Digital Outreach
Sandwich boards and in-store signage are common tactics to improve immunization adherence, but what if you could leverage technology for more targeted, more effective patient outreach? Companies like OmniSYS can help you send targeted digital communications based on each patient’s personal immunization history. For example, you can send personalized text messages only to patients who have not received their flu shot yet this season along a link to educational material explaining the importance of the flu vaccine.
Improve Patient Outcomes with Companion Vaccines
Traditionally, less than four percent of patients who receive a flu shot also receive an appropriate companion vaccine, and that’s because confidently recommending companion vaccines has historically required a lot of work: confirming ACIP / CMS guidelines, checking the state registry for a patient’s immunization history and verifying eligibility based on the patient’s insurance.
The right solution can streamline this process by compiling those data elements for you behind the scenes and delivering real-time companion vaccine recommendations in your workflow. At OmniSYS, we have over 20,000 pharmacies utilizing vaccine and patient-specific alerts, and the average companion vaccine rate for these pharmacies has improved from the industry average of 4 percent to a whopping 24 percent!
Create a Paperless Experience
Actually administering the vaccine is the quickest part of the entire process. It’s all the paperwork before and after that takes so much time: clinical documentation, patient consent forms, insurance verification, registry submission. With the expected increase in demand for flu vaccines this fall and the upcoming COVID-19 vaccine early next year (we hope), improving efficiencies before and after the administration is critical to keeping up with demand.
At OmniSYS, we have created new solutions to digitize the entire immunization workflow for both the patient and the pharmacist. Now for the first time ever, you can eliminate paper-based forms and enable patients to complete all the necessary documents on their own mobile device. This not only streamlines each encounter but also improves the patient experience by minimizing wait times and eliminating contact points such as pens and clipboards.
Manually reporting every immunization to your state’s registry can be slow, tedious and inefficient, placing significant burden on your workflow. Automated reporting of patient immunization data to your Immunization Information System (IIS) registry eliminates manual data entry and ensures compliance with evolving registry requirements. Similarly, as pharmacists play a more active role in providing clinical care (including immunizations), make sure you have the ability to easily and digitally communicate results to other providers.
Prepare Now for Flu Season and Beyond
If your pharmacy is still burdened with manual and paper-based processes, gear up for flu season now by automating as many processes as possible. When flu season hits, you’ll have the tools in place to engage patients and boost your revenue from immunizations.
With several manufacturers racing to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, many experts are hopeful for a vaccine in early 2021. When the vaccine hits the market, community pharmacies will play a vital role in its rapid deployment. With the right tools in hand, your pharmacy will be ready to meet the anticipated demand.
Shelley Hansell, SVP, Client Relations & Revenue Cycle Management
Shelley serves as senior vice president of client relations, responsible for building client partnerships and implementing products and services that mutually grow businesses. With nearly 20 years of domain experience, Shelley is well respected in the pharmacy industry for her revenue cycle management expertise as well as her ability to drive operational improvements aligned with medical billing policies.