Pharmacy U

Travel medicine for your community pharmacy

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With international travel increasing in popularity and pharmacists’ scopes of practice expanding, travel health presents an excellent opportunity for pharmacists to provide a valuable service for their patients. Yet very few pharmacists practice in the space. 

by Ajit Johal

Time constraints and a lack of available resources contribute to this phenomenon. What are the essentials for starting, and the resources for building a pharmacy-based travel medicine business?

Pharmacists are the ideal professionals to help patients get on their way safely. Pharmacists have the knowledge and are accessible to patients seeking pre-travel advice. When it comes to travel health and medicine pharmacists are an ‘underutilized’ resource. Part of the problem may be that pharmacists may lack confidence in travel medicine. Time constraints and a dearth of available resources contribute to this phenomenon.

There’s every reason for pharmacists to get immersed in travel medicine. Don’t wait to read a book or take a course. When a patient asks you to help with travel recommendations, don’t tell them to go to a travel clinic, take the time to look stuff up. It is worth the investment in the long run. Have a robust system for ordering and tracking travel vaccine inventory, consistently carry vaccines such as Hepatitis A and typhoid. Know which vaccines are required for departing travellers. And market to your local physicians, many of whom will be happy to refer patients to you for travel consultations.

Travel Medicine is also a key segue into paid consultations and further expanded scope for pharmacists. The public needs to become more aware of the clinical skills of the pharmacist, and travel consultations are a great way to demonstrate this.

The opportunity is there. Just consider:

+ 1.18 billion people crossed international boundaries in 2015

+ The rate of travel increased by 4.4% in 2015 alone

+ Canadians took 28 million overnight trips abroad in 2010

As the most convenience healthcare professionals, pharmacists are ideally positioned to help their patients travel safely.

Ajit Johal has been a travel medicine provider since 2013.  As a community pharmacist, he is an accessible provider conducting pre travel consultations to patients in the greater Vancouver area.  He obtained his Certificate in Travel Health (CTH) from ISTM in 2014.  After in which he continued to grow his travel medicine services. In 2015 he created “travel rx”, a successful pharmacy based travel health service.  Ajit is also a clinical instructor for the University of British Columbia Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences Program.  He is the course coordinator for Pharmacy 450b, the first elective course in Travel Medicine available in Canada for pharmacy students.