As the autumn days approach, many of us are starting to think about the winter ahead. Wise pharmacists have done so months in advance to be ready for the upcoming flu season.
By Julie Gedeon
Guillaume Fleury, the co-owner of Pharmacie Fleury, Dupuis, Bergeron in Repentigny, Quebec, has had the flu season planned since early June when he and his colleagues ordered this year’s influenza vaccines from their supplier.
“It’s always an educated guess as to how many vaccines we should get,” Fleury says. “We look at last year’s demand, as well as any news regarding what might be expected in terms of the flu in the coming season.”
The pharmacy has again ordered 500 doses, knowing they will quickly find customers for them. As for whether the vaccines will be the right strain, the pharmacy makes a point of explaining that it’s a hedged bet and no vaccine offers 100 per cent protection against all of the various flu strains, although they can help to significantly reduce the impact.
Otherwise, the pharmacy is ready. “We hired a pharmacy nurse 10 years ago so we could offer our customers a broader range of convenient health services,” Fleury explains. “She handles all of the flu vaccinations, as well as shots required for other purposes such as travelling abroad.”
The nurse typically works three days a week at the pharmacy, but occasionally adds hours to her schedule to accommodate the customers who seek their flu shot at the pharmacy annually.
“We make it really convenient for customers to book an appointment either at the pharmacy counter or on the phone,” Fleury adds.
The pharmacy charges $15 per vaccination to cover its costs – a price that no one has disputed to date because of the convenience and confidence related to the service.
Guillaume Fleury’s prescriptive advice:
• Start out small – ordering, for example, 100 vaccination doses – to gauge demand.
• Consider hiring a part-time nurse year-round to expand the convenient services available to your customers. A larger number of qualified candidates are available as nurses seek a more balanced lifestyle with regular hours and time at home with family.
• Look into hiring qualified individuals to administer flu shots on a contract basis for a set period of time, such as one or two full days, if you’re hesitant about your pharmacy’s need for a part-time nurse on a regular basis or are having trouble finding one.
• Make sure whoever is administering the vaccination is not only fully qualified but professional and personable as she or he will reflect the pharmacy’s reputation in a good or bad way.
• Consider buying a small ad in a local newspaper for your initial vaccination offering to advise existing and potential new customers of the service.
• Inform existing customers a few weeks in advance with store posters, bag stuffers and a brief mention as part of the pharmacy’s recorded phone service.
• Make sure it’s simple and fast for your patients to book a time either in person or on the phone. No one wants to be kept waiting as staff look for the vaccination appointment book or figure out a computerized booking system.
• Plan the appointments consecutively as much as possible for greatest efficiency, but with a bit of time between each one to explain the vaccination and respond to any questions.