With the number of Canadians travelling overseas on the rise there is no doubt that travel health is a growing area of opportunity for pharmacists.
By Darshnee Ramnaraign R.Ph.
A pharmacy-based travel health clinic is easily accessible, provides education, and administers travel health immunizations and medications.
#1 Start with research. When initiating a pharmacy-based travel health clinic it is always important to begin with research. Ask your patients how often they travel, where they travel, and importantly, if they’ve ever visited a travel health clinic before. All of this will allow you to initiate important conversations about travel-based healthcare, and will also help you inform patients about all the travel services that you offer.
# 2 Generate information brochures. An appropriate step for establishing an effective travel health clinic is to generate brochures with information pertaining to the importance of travel-based healthcare and all of the related resources available. It may also be worthwhile to include a compilation of reputable websites in the brochure as well to emphasize the importance of travel medicine. Social media outlets like Facebook and Instagram can be used as an avenue to reach a wide array of potential patients. However, you must ensure that all of your posts and fliers are written in a clear, concise, and easy to read manner—importantly, avoid medical jargon!
# 3 Make your travel information widely available. All travel-based health information should be distributed to target audiences and made available within the clinic. The more knowledgeable your patients, the more likely they will purchase appropriate over-the-counter products to ensure their safe travel. Information available to travellers should include (but not be limited to) sun safety, insect bite prevention, food and drink recommendations, traveller’s diarrhea, first aid, motion sickness, and jet lag.
#4 Create a travel zone. To ensure ease of access and compliance with travel health advice, have a dedicated area in the pharmacy for all travel health particulars and stock. The pharmacy should assemble travel health kits for purchase that include items recommended by Health Canada. This not only represents notable sales for the pharmacy, but also safeguards the patient against self-limiting conditions.
#5 Keep your education current. To best serve the patient population, it is paramount that pharmacists remain up to date with the constantly changing travel risks and preventive strategies. Ongoing continuing education practices should be established to ensure that pharmacists are familiar with recent changes in a timely fashion. Pharmacists should have access to weekly updates, email alerts and reviews, and also attend travel health conferences. Travel health certification is not required but is suggested to give patients and other healthcare professionals confidence that you are providing relevant and evidence-based recommendations.
# 6 Collaborate with local physicians. To facilitate a smoothly run travel health clinic, pharmacists should maintain good relations with local physicians as approval for travel immunizations and medications is needed. Pre-formatted prescriptions may make it easier for the physician to authorize your recommendations. Alternatively, collaboration with a physician would eliminate the need for prescription authorization.
With education, passion, and determination, all pharmacists can run a successful pharmacy-based travel health clinic ensuring patients are protected while traveling and increasing the pharmacy’s revenue.
Darshnee Ramnaraign R.Ph. is a travel health pharmacist at Avan Pharmacy Ltd. in Orangeville, Ont. and a professor at Lambton College.