Summer might seem a little early to start preparing for the flu season. However, given the recent wave of Covid cases in Ireland this summer, we’re anticipating an incredibly busy flu season for pharmacists come autumn. Therefore, it’s important to get ahead of the game. Here are five reasons why we think pharmacies in Ireland should start preparing for flu season now.
1. Pharmacies are likely to deliver Covid and flu vaccinations at the same time
As of the week ending 29th June, there were more than 13,500 confirmed Covid cases reported. This is a 36% increase compared to the week before. In addition, the number of cases is expected to increase as the weather cools down. The rise in Covid infections has led government officials to anticipate more extensive vaccination campaigns to encourage eligible individuals to get a second booster shot. These vaccination drives are expected to run in early autumn. They are most likely to run in September. At the same time, the HSE advises individuals to get flu vaccines before flu season usually starts. To facilitate this, vaccines are expected to become available in October.
Ireland’s Health Minister, Stephen Donelly, is pushing for flu and covid vaccinations to be administered at the same time. Minister Donnelly estimates as many as four million vaccine doses to be delivered this autumn.
2. Vulnerable and diligent patients want to book in advance
With current news and upcoming campaigns, pharmacies should expect vulnerable and diligent patients to start calling up to ask about vaccinations. Many of them will wish to make an appointment as soon as possible. Given that vaccines are not yet available, placing your patients on a waitlist is a great way to secure their business ahead of time.
Waitlists are a great tool for pharmacies that are unsure of how many doses will be available. Similarly, they can be useful if you’re unsure of when vaccination supplies will be available. With HasHealth, patients can join your waitlist and receive a notification when an appointment becomes available. What’s more, they can easily reschedule or cancel if they can’t make the appointment. Patients can do this all online, without the hassle of back-and-forth phone calls.
3. Going digital takes time
Managing flu shots and Covid vaccinations, on top of all the paperwork and pre-/post-vaccination assessments and questionnaires, can be time-consuming. It can also be rather messy without an automated workflow in place. If patients need to reschedule or cancel their appointments, pharmacies may spend a lot of time rearranging schedules and reconfirming appointments.
To simplify admin, digitising your workflows can be a great time-saver. However, setting up a digital system like HasHealth can take time.
For starters, you’ll need to integrate the software with your existing online channels. This could be your website, social media channels, or both. With HasHealth for example, you’ll first need to set up your appointments in the platform before copying a line of code to your website to start taking bookings online. Once that’s up and running, you’ll need time to train your team to use the new platform. Ideally, this should be done before busy periods so they have time to get comfortable with the software.
When you’re finally ready to promote your new online booking platform, it will take time to advertise your digital channels and build up awareness amongst your customers. You might need time to put up posters in-store, schedule the right content on social media, and run a few paid search and/or social campaigns.
Last but not least, you should allow time for your customers to get comfortable with using your new online platform. Patients will need to practice making appointment bookings, checking for updates, completing pre-vaccination assessments, and so on.
4. Recruiting and preparing your team before flu season hits
As flu vaccines and Covid-19 boosters are likely to be delivered at the same time, this flu season may be far busier than previous seasons. Pharmacies may need to take on extra staff and train them before the flu season begins.
Given the current pharmacist shortage in Ireland, recruiting and training new team members to deliver the best patient-centred care will take time. Forward planning allows you to include recruitment in your business plans if needed. This should offer more leeway to execute your plans and make the necessary adjustments in time for the busy periods.
5. Data-driven vaccine inventory management
The most important thing you’ll need to consider ahead of the flu season is how you’ll store the vaccines. It is highly likely that boosters and flu vaccinations will overlap. Depending on how many vaccines you get and when they arrive, you may need to upgrade your storage solutions or allocate more storage for these vaccines.
With an appointment booking system, pharmacies can use real booking data to gauge demand for vaccines. Therefore, you can order the right amount to meet patient needs. Over-ordering can lead to the wastage of vaccines if they expire before they’re administered. In contrast, under-ordering may lead to a poor patient experience as they won’t get vaccinated when they arrive for their appointments.
It’s all part of delivering a great patient experience
In today’s incredibly competitive market, a great patient experience can be the very thing that helps you retain your customers and achieve long-term success. With the right tools in place, Irish pharmacies can leverage technology solutions like HasHealth to deliver a great experience from the moment an appointment is booked to the moment patients leave your pharmacy with a cute plaster on their arm.
Digital platforms like HasHealth can help pharmacies streamline and automate workflows to save you time on tedious scheduling. Start planning now so your team can focus on delivering a great patient experience, no matter how busy things get.
How can the HasHealth platform help your pharmacy manage flu season?
HasHealth appointment booking software allows patients to easily add their names to a waiting list in the run-up to flu season. You can then set appointment limits based on pharmacist availability and vaccine supply.
When you’re ready to start offering vaccination appointments, you can use HasHealth software to automatically allocate appointments to patients on the waiting list. You can even allocate appointments based on patient priority. For instance, appointments can be given to vulnerable patients first.
Once appointments are allocated, patients will be notified via SMS and provided with a link to the online booking page. There, they can cancel or reschedule their allocated appointment. There’s no need for them to phone or visit the pharmacy!
Integrating HasHealth software into your everyday workflows can be a game-changer when it comes to flu season. But you don’t have to take our word for it. Book a demo with our dedicated sales team today to see exactly how HasHealth can help your pharmacy.
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