Independent pharmacies are positioned to have a huge impact in their communities. When disease and epidemics strike, pharmacies may play a crucial role in the health of their communities.
According to the CDC, measles was officially eradicated in 2000. Since early 2019, the number of measles cases has steadily grown in the United States, and it is now considered the largest measles epidemic within the past two decades. As of May 10, 2019, the CDC reports 839 confirmed cases of measles, mostly from children. With outbreaks occurring in Washington, New York, and California, public health officials are expressing concern. “Vaccine-preventable diseases belong in the history books, not in our emergency rooms,” says Alex Azar, Secretary of Health and Human Services. “The suffering we are seeing today is completely avoidable. Vaccines are safe because they are among the most studied medical products we have.”
While experts recommend everyone receive a new dose of the MMR vaccination, there are specific groups that benefit most:
- Anyone travelling internationally
- Older adults
Keep in mind that children will need two doses of the MMR vaccination: the first at age 12-15 months, the second at 4-6 years old. Also, older adults who were immunized before 1968 should consider revaccination, since the vaccine during those years contained a dead version of measles instead of a live strain that is currently available.
While people typically see their primary care providers once or twice a year, many visit their pharmacies at least once a month. (One study found that, on average, high-risk patients visit their pharmacy 35 times a year!) This presents an opportunity to community pharmacists to decrease the number of occurring measles outbreaks.
Sure, pharmacy staff members can try to remember to ask their patients about their most recent measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccination. Pharmacists are poised to leverage patient accessibility and technology like never before in the fight against measles. PioneerRx users have all the tools they need within their pharmacy management system to be proactive during the measles outbreak.
Measles can affect all age groups, but like many illnesses, it becomes more complicated in young children and older adults. An integration with state immunization registries can help identify patients who are due for an MMR vaccination. PioneerRx integrates directly with STC’s Immslink, a bi-directional interface that provides real-time immunization records to pharmacies. Brent Holbrook, product specialist at STC, finds great value in technology during health crises like this. “The STC-PioneerRx integration represents a large step forward in the public health – private health partnership. The technology that we have collaborated and revealed to joint customers can reduce workflow, identify gaps in patient’s immunization schedules and help pharmacist give more needed immunizations,” explains Brent. “The measles outbreak is a great example of why partnerships like these are so important. Having two technology vendors align to support the pharmacist role in stopping a vaccine-preventable disease is not only helping to keep communities around the country safe from these illnesses but are also helping to advance how pharmacists are seen during emergencies like these.”
In PioneerRx’s pharmacy management system, pharmacies can use Auto Categories considering specific criteria such as demographics (patient age) and prescription history to further narrow down the patients who have a greater need for the MMR vaccine, then offer it to them during their visit to the pharmacy. In the instance of immunizing older adults, PioneerRx users can utilize the criteria of a patient not receiving the MMR vaccine yet and being 50 years or older (born before 1968), which will yield care goals for all older patients who may have received an ineffective strain of the measles vaccination in the 1960s, leaving them more susceptible to the recent outbreaks. PioneerRx users can create workflow alerts to address these opportunities in real time, and when they do, Care Goals may provide a consistent framework of instructions and documentation for each encounter. The Care Goal allows pharmacies to document the journey from offering the MMR vaccine all the way to dispensing it (or noting the patient’s refusal).
As the headlines and number of outbreaks continue to escalate, independent pharmacies have an opportunity to offer solutions and be an available resource that betters the health of their communities.