Is 2014 the year that UK Pharmacists finally get their heads around running travel clinics? In the last couple of years there has been a bit of a ‘buzz’ around UK pharmacies running travel clinics; a natural progression from flu vaccines, or so it would seem. Has running travel clinics been successful and what are the challenges ahead?
Most of the developed world is facing a healthcare funding crisis, longer life-spans, aging populations and falling birth rates (resulting in fewer workers paying taxes), and expensive ‘hi-tech’ treatments are putting huge strain on healthcare budgets. In this landscape, governments are looking at every possible means to reduce expenditure. The pressure to reduce costs has seen aggressive moves by healthcare authorities toward the use of generic medication, and in conjunction with this, dispensing income for high street pharmacies has fallen dramatically. This is by no means unique to the UK; Ireland, for example, is undergoing a similar change. Facing an erosion of what was once core income, pharmacies are looking at new sources of income, which is where providing vaccines and travel vaccines comes into the frame.
Travel Clinics in US Pharmacies
Internationally, the provision of vaccines by pharmacists is not new, with perhaps the US and Canada furthest ahead in this regard. According to the American Pharmacist Association in 2012, just under 200,000 US pharmacists had been certified to provide vaccines across 52 States. While this is primarily aimed at flu vaccines, leading US Pharmacy chains such as, CVS Caremark and Kroger, are expanding into travel and other vaccines. “But hardly any Americans have passports” us snooty Europeans sniff; well according to William D Chalmers book ‘America’s Vacation Deficit Disorder’, 42% of Americans do, and a look at the data from US ITA reveals that 15 to 20 million Americans (~6% of the population) travelled to ‘at-risk’ destinations in 2012, and if you include Mexico the figure jumps to 40 million. In same year just over 7 million people (~11% of the population) travelled from the UK to similar areas of the world.
Travel Clinics in UK Pharmacies
The provision of vaccine services by UK Pharmacists has developed over a number phases in recent years. The first phase was focused on the flu administration, with the pharmacist trained to administer the vaccine under a PGD. In the second phase, some of the more innovative pharmacists spotted the opportunity in travel medicine and began to train as independent prescribers and develop their own PGDs. In the case of large pharmacy chains, they developed partnerships with medical service providers such as online doctors. But for most the effort of developing their own PGDs or partnerships created a barrier to launching a travel clinic. A third phase emerged during 2012 with the first commercial travel vaccine PGDs appearing on the market. Many viewed these as key to getting a travel clinic up and running, only to later discover that there is a big gap between ‘knowing’ and ‘doing’ when it comes to running travel clinics. While the PGD gave a pharmacist the protocol and authorisation, when a patient is sitting in front of them they realised that they needed more; such as a way to manage the consultation and vaccine schedule, educate the patient, send reminders and so on. The PGD is the foundation stone not the whole building.
What’s the Secret Sauce
So what’s the secret sauce; what is going to emerge in 2014? The pharmacies that will succeed are realising that a more complete solution is required. Once the training and PGDs are in place, the next step is to start promoting the service. An important element of this is developing the pharmacy’s web site or even adding a dedicated travel health website. Sticking a link on a sub-menu is not sufficient: the patient wants the pharmacy to demonstrate a commitment to the service and demonstrate that they know what they’re doing. We’re also seeing that those who have been running paper-based PGDs, are now looking for solutions that encapsulate the whole consultation process, which is where Inca Clinic comes in. In addition, training courses are putting a greater emphasis on travel health advice not just the mechanics of administering vaccines. Combined, these give the pharmacist and patient confidence. The independents and chains that grasp these elements will succeed in developing successful travel clinics.
Inca Clinic is a proven solution for Travel Clinics. It is used by dedicated travel clinics, medical practices and community pharmacists in the UK and internationally. To date over 100,000 consultations having been done on Inca Clinic. For UK Pharmacists it helps them ensure that they work within the scope of their PGDs and adhere to best practice in Travel Medicine. For those working with paper-based PGDs Inca Clinic can automate reports needed by the PGD provider, saving time and allowing them to focus on their patients.