Pharmacy U

Brent Atkinson sticks it to his patients, and they love it!

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When BC announced that pharmacists’ scope of practice would allow for injection administration, Brent Atkinson from Peoples Pharmacy in Penticton realized the benefit for his patients and business.

 

By Mike Boivin, BSc.Phm.

Photography by Stephanie Whiting

 

“I have always been an early adopter and was one of the first pharmacists in the province to take the injection training. I was not going to wait, as I could see the potential to help fully immunize my patients and be paid for a service that could benefit the pharmacy as well.”

He and business partner Anthony Rage explored methods to integrate immunizations into their practice effectively and profitably. “We realized to do this right we would need to make an investment. We bought a refrigerator specifically designed for vaccines, which allows us to safely store significant amounts of vaccine and ensures they are protected.”

Their investment and training have paid off. Although the pharmacists started with only influenza immunization, they now also administer other publicly funded adult vaccines, such as tetanus.

And they continued to look for ways to expand their immunization program. “I was interested in travel health and thought that it would help both my patients and business to offer travel immunization in our practice,” Brent says.

The pharmacy started offering travel consultations and vaccines, and has since become a yellow fever vaccine centre. This part of the business has grown organically, with very little marketing beyond word-of-mouth and discussing the service with local physicians.

Teamwork has been a key factor in the success of the travel vaccine practice. “Everyone is involved in the success of the program,” Brent explains. “My focus has been on the clinical aspect. Anthony has helped with vaccine administration and works to ensure the service continues to be profitable. We hired another pharmacist who injects, and this has been very helpful in ensuring the program runs smoothly. All of our staff are trained to start a discussion on our immunization service. They keep their antennas up to look for potential candidates for this and other services we offer in the pharmacy.”

Anthony developed a simple pricing structure for their vaccines. “We have a single price that includes everything: the vaccine, administration fees, dispensing fees, and markup. This ensures profitability and patients appreciate the simplicity.”

Brent plans to push his practice further. He is challenging the International Society of Travel Medicine (ISTM) exam to attain his certificate in travel health. This will allow him to continue offering unsurpassed immunization services to the people of Penticton.

Brent Atkinson’s top immunization service tips:

  1. Know your community. “You have to know what is being offered by other pharmacies and healthcare professionals. It helps to differentiate you as a leader versus a follower.”
  2. Mind your space. “We have a small pharmacy. If we had known we would be offering these services, we would have designed the store differently. You need some room for your fridge and for consultations.”
  3. Take as much CE as you can. “I have invested in excellent courses from HealtheLearning and ISTM to enhance my knowledge and ensure my recommendations are always up-to-date.”
  4. Maximize profitability. “There are many models to ensure your immunization practice is practical. Know your patients and potential clients to determine the best strategy.”
  5. Keep changing. Brent evolves his immunization service to meet the needs of his patients, maximize profitability, and differentiate his pharmacy from competitors.