Benefits of Flu Vaccine and Overcoming Hesitancy with Converge Rx
The annual cost of influenza in the United States can be staggering. This flu season is projected to be a particularly disruptive one and is already living up to expectations in some states. There are many benefits of influenza vaccine promotion, and it is truly a win-win for both pharmacy and patient. Pharmacists are uniquely positioned to assist patients in overcoming vaccine hesitancy; and with the help of Converge Rx™, there is no better time to do so than the end of the year.
By: Kristol Chism, director of industry relations at Change Healthcare
The economics of influenza
Despite continuing improvement in influenza vaccines, influenza still looms large and destructive. The economic burden of influenza on the United States is heavy. A pre-COVID-19 pandemic study demonstrated that influenza accounted for 65% of the total economic burden caused by vaccine-preventable diseases in the adult population of America. Total annual direct medical costs such as office visits, treatments, hospitalization, and death have been estimated to be $3.2 billion, whereas indirect costs—such as loss of productivity—accounted for $8.0 billion. Because employers and businesses bear the brunt of that indirect cost, the CDC provides many resources to help organizations get engaged with fighting the flu.
The benefits of flu vaccines
Flu vaccines are one key to unlocking better health, and pharmacists are perfectly positioned to provide this solution. For patients, the benefits of receiving a flu vaccine are obvious: potential protection from the flu and improved health outcomes; but for pharmacies, there is more to the story.
By offering flu vaccines to your patients, you are showing you care about their health and well-being, thereby strengthening your relationship with them and their family. By providing a robust flu vaccination program at your pharmacy, you are committing to a healthier community. Other healthcare providers will appreciate this partnership; vaccinating patients in pharmacies lessens the occupational burden of already overstressed hospital and clinic staff. There are positive economic and financial outcomes for pharmacies to promote flu vaccines as well. Converge Rx makes vaccine promotion easy, as these conversations can be built right into the workflow of the pharmacy.
Overcoming vaccine hesitancy
As any pharmacist who recommends flu vaccines can attest, patients can sometimes be reluctant to get immunized against the flu. Most vaccine hesitancy can be overcome with some simple empathy and good listening skills. Letting the patient know you care about them and their health outcome is key. If the patient feels you are simply trying to convince them you are right, or only focused on profits, they will be less likely to participate in the conversation.
Pharmacists should listen carefully to patients’ concerns and respond appropriately, providing facts—backed with resources such as links to the CDC—to support the patient’s understanding. Knowing more about your patient and their family will help guide the conversation to points that are specific to them. Are they over 65 years of age? Is there a new baby in the family? Do they have other health conditions such as diabetes or heart disease? All of these are critical points to understand when attempting to overcome vaccine hesitancy.
Why promote flu vaccine now?
For pharmacies, promoting vaccines should be happening year-round as there are many vaccines that are nonseasonal; but the end of the year is prime time for flu vaccine promotion. National Influenza Vaccination Week is held the first full week of December each year. Although this may sound late for promoting flu vaccines, it really is not. Many people attend large gatherings and parties during end-of-year holidays and festivities. Because it takes at least two weeks to attain immunity once the vaccine is given, protecting your patients during the month of December is very appropriate. Here are some good reminders for your patients and ways to start a flu conversation:
- It is not too late to get your flu shot.
- Immunity can take two weeks so protect yourself before your holiday parties.
- It is covered on most insurances and provided at no cost to most patients.
Remember, promotion of vaccines is also a medication therapy management (MTM) opportunity. Converge Rx can assist with vaccine recommendations and streamlined billing services built into workflow to make this a smooth process for pharmacists. At the end of the year, let’s work to end the flu!