Take Your Flu Shot Services into the Community
Flu shots in workplaces can help reduce business costs, increase pharmacy revenue
Influenza (Flu) takes a heavy toll on businesses each year, causing nearly 17 million lost workdays.1 Each day an employee calls in sick costs a business an average of $135.2 If an employee is sick and still goes to work, known as “presenteeism,” still takes a toll in lost productivity.3 So, employers have a vested interest in keeping their employees healthy; it lowers costs and increases productivity.
No wonder so many employers are seeing the value in providing flu shots to their employees on-site at their workplaces, and often having local pharmacies do so. Workplace marketing firm WorkPlace Impact predicts that the number of pharmacy-sponsored flu clinics at workplaces will triple by 2017.4
Providing flu shots in workplaces is convenient for employees, free for most employers (since insurance usually pays), and an efficient way for pharmacies to serve a large number of people in a short amount of time. Also, by going into workplaces, community pharmacies are creating awareness of their services and building relationships with possible customers.
“It’s a win-win for everybody — the employees and the company you’re doing the flu shots for, the community, and the pharmacy,” said Patrick Uyemoto, clinical pharmacy manager for Times Supermarket RX in Hawaii, which has a dozen supermarkets with pharmacies. During the past flu season, it held over 100 clinics and delivered thousands of flu shots.
Even if an employer doesn’t offer health insurance for its employees, it may still pay for employees to receive a flu vaccine. And just as some employers provide support for employees to get a flu shot, some pharmacies provide incentives for employers. For example, Neale Coy, owner of BestYet Health Mart Pharmacy in Harrah, Oklahoma, offers businesses a discount on flu shots for their employees.
In general, when flu shots are offered at a workplace, about half of employees take advantage of getting a shot, but several factors influence the number. For example, right after the flu has been a hot topic in the media, the number of people getting shots rises, said Brian Marr, owner of River Road Health Mart Pharmacy in Eugene, Oregon.
If your pharmacy is already able to deliver flu shots, expanding to workplaces can be an easy way to add a new revenue stream to your business.
Long before most people are thinking about the flu, your pharmacy can start signing up workplaces to provide shots in the fall. Times Pharmacy sends flyers to local businesses early in the year.
River Road, on the other hand, has found that most of the businesses it contacts don’t want to think about flu shots until June or July. That’s still plenty of time to plan for vaccinations from late September through early November.
Coy schedules appointments to talk with business owners about how flu shots will benefit their business and employees.
Pharmacy owners also say that word of mouth is some of their best advertising. Marr said employers know that when his pharmacy is at their workplace, flu shots are being administered by a trusted, professional, local pharmacist. They know they can rely on who is giving the shots, which Marr does personally.
Of course, you may need to order vaccines early to ensure an adequate supply at good prices. Marr takes advantage of McKesson’s Flu Vaccine Pre-Order Program. That allows him to order vaccines in February or March, so they are set aside for his pharmacy and he receives the best price. While he plans ahead, he doesn’t have to pay for or store the vaccines until he needs them, scheduling next-day delivery. He usually pre-orders about 75% of the amount he used the previous flu season.
Work with Small Employers
To provide flu shots at an employer’s worksite you may want to set a minimum number of participating employees. But there are still ways to accommodate small businesses. For example, you could offer flu shots to all of the businesses and employees in a building with several companies. Or, one employer, which paid for the shots for their employees, sent employees to BestYet Health Mart Pharmacy two at a time over the course of a week.
When considering which worksites to target, start with:
- Local vendors with whom you already do business
- New businesses in the community profiled in the local media
- Employers on a list from your local city or chamber of commerce
- All of the businesses in an office building or office park
At a mill in Oregon, the participation rate for River Road’s flu shots is 80% to 90%, Marr said. The employer rewards workers who get shots with a small gift, such as candy, or a hat or shirt with the company logo. In Hawaii, Uyemoto said he has seen some employers give gift cards of up to $20 as incentive thank you to employees for being vaccinated. Coy, who administered 600 shots this year, provides branded magnets and cloth tote bags so that participants know where to find his pharmacy.
When vaccinating employees, market the ability to provide flu shots to employees’ family members. However, in doing so be knowledgeable about state law. In Hawaii, for example, children ages 14 through 17 require a valid prescription to be vaccinated, Uyemoto said.
River Road Health Mart Pharmacy also has administered more than 100 Tdap vaccines when on-site at workplaces, and BestYet had an employer pay for both flu and pneumonia shots for employees.
Emailing information about the vaccines and forms for employees to fill out ahead of time makes the clinics run more smoothly than waiting until you arrive on the site. “Having people fill out forms on the day they are receiving their shot creates a long line,” Uyemoto said. Even if you send the forms in advance, some people lose them or forget to fill them out, so you still need to have forms on hand.
Also, work with employers to plan the best time to be on-site. For a construction company, Marr held a clinic at 7 a.m. at the central office, allowing workers to get vaccinated before heading out to various job sites. With planning, you can set up to provide shots within minutes, preferably in a private area with a table and a few chairs. Working alone, Marr has administered 50 shots in 52 minutes.
Market Your Pharmacy
The reimbursement from flu shots will more than pay for a pharmacist’s time at a workplace, helping make this a profitable undertaking. But don’t be content merely to provide flu shots. See this outreach in the community as a ripe opportunity to learn about customers, develop relationships and market everything your pharmacy offers. Uyemoto said Times has used this opportunity to spend time with potential customers to learn about their needs and how to better serve them as a pharmacy.
Note: Immunization regulations vary by state including rules around offsite immunization clinics. Refer to your state board of pharmacy for specifics. Health Mart members can access their Bula Law Immunization Module for answers to common questions.
- “Start Planning Now for the 2015-16 Flu Season”
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers a toolkit for employers, “Make It Your Business to Fight the Flu,” which encourages employers to offer workplace flu vaccinations and provides tips for setting up a successful program. The toolkit even includes a flyer to fill in with the location, date and time of a workplace flu clinic. Find more resources at the CDC Foundation’s Business Pulse
1. “Flu Season: How CDC Helps Protect Your Employees and Your Business,” CDC Foundation, Business Pulse. [LINK]
2. “The Cost of the Flu,” Melinda Rogers, HealthFeed, Sept. 11, 2014. [LINK]
3. “Flu Season Can Have Bosses Struggling with ‘Presenteeism,’ Wellness Firm Provant Says,” Chris Reidy, Boston.com, Mar. 25, 2014. [LINK]
4. “Flu Clinics Sponsored by Retail Pharmacy at the Workplace to Triple by 2017,” Michael Johnsen, Drug Store News, Dec. 4, 2014. [LINK]