While pharmacies have been administering flu shots and managing vaccination appointments for a long time, administering them during a global pandemic, alongside the COVID-19 vaccine and COVID-19 booster shot might be a little challenging.
If we’re serious about delivering patient-centred services, pharmacies need to look beyond the traditional approach to understand the steps consumers go through to research, book and plan their vaccination appointments. Understanding the journey through the customers’ point of view will help us identify blockers and inefficiencies, and find solutions to manage the upcoming influx of appointments.
Part 1: “Should I get vaccinated?”
The customer journey from researching vaccinations to deciding to get vaccinated to finally making an appointment is the first of many steps taken before finally arriving at your pharmacy.
Step 1: Research vaccinations
Whether it’s the flu vaccination, the COVID-19 vaccination or the COVID-19 booster shot, your customers are likely to go online to find out if they should or should not get the vaccine. There are many resources online that can help consumers decide the best course of action.
Opportunity for pharmacies: Compiling a list of reputable resources and sharing it on your website can be a great way to help your community get the right information quicker. You can also offer a summary of who should get vaccinated to help individuals figure out if the vaccine is right for them.
Step 2: Find out where to get vaccinated
When they’ve decided to get vaccinated, individuals will go online to search for pharmacies or GPs in the area who can offer the vaccination they’re looking for. Most of the time, people will search for terms like “flu vaccination near me” or “winter flu vaccination service” and click on the first few search results that are likely to bring up a pharmacy listing where they can make an appointment.
Opportunity for pharmacies: Create a page on your website or post on your social media channels about the different vaccination services offered at your pharmacy to market your services online, especially since people are currently searching for these services. You should also add an FAQ section to the page to answer common questions and further explain what each appointment entails.
Step 3: Make an appointment
Example from Boots.
Not too long ago, bookings in pharmacies had to be made via walk-ins or phone calls. However, more and more pharmacies are moving towards a “Digital front door” where consumers can make a booking for a range of services across a range of platforms. Whether it’s a phone call, a walk-in, or an online booking system, pharmacies should provide clear instructions for customers to make a booking with them.
Once a booking is made, whether in-person, over the phone, or via your booking system, it’s good practice to provide a confirmation email or appointment card so that customers are reminded of their upcoming appointment.
Opportunity for pharmacies: Post online and put up posters in-store with information about booking different vaccinations offered at your pharmacy. Using an online booking system can streamline the booking process and helps to manage your vaccination appointments, allowing you to take bookings long after your pharmacy has closed for the business day.
Part 2: “What to do before my appointment?”
Different appointments require different pre-appointment screenings and consultations. Here are ways to improve each pre-appointment process.
Flu vaccinations typically require customers to fill out a screening questionnaire beforehand. With most online booking systems, you can send this out before the appointment date to save time during the appointment itself.
Opportunity for pharmacies: Save time by automating when the questionnaire is sent out. In the example above, Boots requires customers to complete the questionnaire before they can even select a time and date for their appointment. This is a great way to improve completion rates at home and frees up time for your staff, usually spent managing vaccination appointments.
Get a checklist to help you organise your flu vaccinations during the COVID-19 pandemic >>
The COVID-19 vaccination process requires individuals to go through a consultation process with a medical expert to understand the potential risks of the vaccine, make sure they’re eligible for the vaccine, and get consent from the individual. As for teens aged 12 to 15 years old, they require consent from one parent to receive the vaccine. These consultations should be incorporated into the overall booking process and outlined in all marketing and communication materials.
Opportunities for pharmacies: With the acceleration of digital adoption in healthcare, pharmacies can offer remote consultations to limit the number of people walking into their stores and freeing up space in waiting rooms for those who require an in-person appointment.
While we’re not sure what the booster shot plan looks like, it’s likely that it would also include some form of pre-screening to at least make sure that enough time has elapsed since the 2nd vaccination appointment.
Part 3: “What happens during the vaccination appointment?”
Once they’ve gone through the screening and/or consultations, your customers will need guidance and reminders about health and safety practices in your pharmacy.
Step 1: Arrive at the appointed date and time
It is important that your customers arrive at the appointed date and time to avoid overcrowding and long wait times. This also means you can maximise the number of vaccination appointments per day while adhering to health and safety guidelines.
Opportunity for pharmacies: Most booking systems offer basic email tools that allow you to schedule automated reminders so that people do not miss their appointments or turn up at the wrong time. This is a win:win for the patient and your pharmacy, making the process more transparent for patients and reducing the time spent managing vaccination appointments by your staff.
Step 2: Waiting room etiquette
Remember to include clear markings on the floor and seats to help customers maintain social distance at all times. Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) in the UK advises pharmacies to put up posters outside their premises to remind customers of safety guidelines such as wearing a mask when in the pharmacy and social distancing guidelines. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in Ireland also advises pharmacies and clinics to have patients wait in the car if possible.
Opportunity for pharmacies: Pharmacies can significantly reduce wait times by using a booking system with clear time slots and a fixed number of appointments per time slot. Having all your available times and remaining slots shared on your website allows customers to book a time slot that best suits their busy schedules. Pharmacies can also use a digital waiting list where customers can sign up for certain services, such as booster shots, and schedule appointments based on priority groups.
Step 3: Post-vaccination observation
Most vaccinations will require an observation period of at least 15 minutes to monitor for allergic reactions or side effects. Again, customers can wait in the car or in your waiting room.
Step 4: Schedule a follow-up appointment (if necessary)
Depending on the vaccination received, some vaccination programmes require two doses while others might only require one. Your customers should be able to make a booking with you on the spot, or you can follow up with them at a later date.
Opportunity for pharmacies: Most booking systems either integrate with or offer their own patient record systems. Having all the patient’s appointment dates and times recorded in one place makes it easier to retrieve information down the line, and simplifies how you share patient information with their registered GP.
Leverage on existing technologies
No matter how tech-savvy (or not) your pharmacy might be, there’s always room to embrace tech to improve operational efficiencies and deliver a great experience to your customers online and offline. Service providers like HasHealth offer a range of booking tools that can simplify the entire patient journey for your customers, all while improving operational efficiencies in the back-end.
Leverage on existing technologies to give your pharmacy the leg up to stand out from your competitors today.
Deliver a great experience from start to finish
HasHealth offers a range of tools to help you simplify the entire patient journey both on the customer-facing end, and with back-end admin and setup.
Header image by CDC on Unsplash