The weather is hopefully cooling down, the days are getting shorter, and the leaves are changing color as we welcome the autumn season.

For independent pharmacists, the last stretch of the year yields a unique set of obstacles. There is the tried-and-true flu season, a more than well-known health crisis in the (newly ended) COVID-19 pandemic, and the new but dangerous monkeypox crisis.

As we prepare for the cooler months, here are some tips to make your independent pharmacy a stellar healthcare destination in the midst of the autumn season chaos.

1. Promote and Push Flu Shots

Flu season is the one constant during the autumn season. You can expect customers to ask for flu shots and receive prescriptions to treat the flu.

Naturally, you should ensure your pharmacy is comfortably stocked up on Tamiflu and other flu-related medications: cough syrup, antibiotics, steroids, etc.

On the subject of vaccines, it’s mainly business as usual: make sure you have enough. Be mindful of your independent pharmacy’s location and the demographics that surround it.

Also, refresh yourself on what constitutes flu-like symptoms. Be on the lookout for patients who come into your pharmacy with the following ailments:

  • Fever/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny/stuff nose
  • Fatigue

Do these sound familiar? They really should because they sound eerily similar to another virus that turned the world upside down.

2. Continue Your COVID-Related Treatments

We’re well past the times of lockdown and mask mandates. Everything is up and running like it was before the pandemic, whether they be schools, retail stores, sporting events, or concerts.

That doesn’t change the fact that COVID remains a grave health concern, especially for elderly or immunocompromised patients. Though tests and vaccines are widely available, you still need to provide necessary healthcare services efficiently and urgently.

COVID is still nothing to gawk at, as cases still pop up with alarming consistency. Refer to the CDC COVID Data Tracker to get the latest statistics on how the virus is spreading through your county or state.

You can develop specialized strategies to help treat COVID patients depending on your area. Make sure you have the essentials: at-home testing kits, all the medications used to treat a positive case, and of course vaccines.

Stock up on your COVID vaccines and boosters in the same way you’re stocking up on your flu shots. There will be great demand for both, so plan accordingly.

On September 2nd, the Biden administration suspended the delivery of free at-home COVID testing kits through the U.S. Postal Service. As a result, the availability of at-home COVID tests will likely become increasingly scarce as we enter the autumn season.

If the last two autumn seasons and winters are any indication, we might be in for an uptick of cases. As such, make sure your independent pharmacy is prepared for what’s to come, whether it be for prescriptions, vaccines, or OTC items.

Make it a point to be readily available for patient consultation as well.

3. Be Prepared for Monkeypox Cases

At the time of writing, the U.S. currently has over 24,000 cases of monkeypox, according to the CDC.

In the same span of time, the state has been investigating a second possible death caused by the virus. Though monkeypox’s fatality rate is objectively lower than COVID or the flu, its highly contagious nature is nothing to scoff at.

However, there is currently a decline in growing cases in the U.S. compared to the initial outbreak. While it may be cause for cautious optimism, healthcare officials emphasize the “cautious” part of that term.

While 350,000 monkeypox vaccines have been administered, officials are still determining the vaccine’s ability to effectively prevent infection.

In short, it’s still touch and go when it comes to the monkeypox virus, though there is reason to be (cautiously) optimistic.

Check out our monkeypox-centric blog for more comprehensive information on the virus and how to run your independent pharmacy as cleanly as possible.

4. Remember the Autumn Season Basics

With the end of the year coming close, take some time to make the new year a little less chaotic. Tell your patients to present their new insurance cards before the first of the year to prevent the inevitable new year headaches.

Since the majority of insurance plans start or end with the calendar year, this can help you get ahead of the madness.

With the school year in full swing, you should also continue to have medications (namely inhalers and EpiPens) available on your pharmacy shelves.

And, lastly, get ready for seasonal illnesses. The weather change and the falling of the leaves are both welcome changes from the unforgiving heatwave we found ourselves in this summer.

While you absolutely should enjoy the cool fall breeze while drinking some pumpkin-spice concoction from Starbucks, make sure you are ready for the inevitable cold and allergy stampedes.

5. Spotlight Your Staff

Pharmacy work is vital. It takes a toll on its workers as we juggle the customer and healthcare aspects of the job.

This toll is further compounded by the impending hectic holiday season: patients are requesting early refills before their holiday vacations or trying to enjoy their insurance benefits as much as they can before the clock strikes midnight.

All of that extra pressure can easily overshadow some of your basic duties as a pharmacist. Take the next few months to express your gratitude towards both your staff and patients.

They all deserve a shout-out, especially in the coming months. Whether you choose to write letters of gratitude, give them gift cards, or buy them lunch, it’s the thought that counts.

Just putting a good word for someone can make their day. It takes little to no effort but the impact can be immeasurable.

Get Ready for the Autumn Season Your Way

Even if COVID or monkeypox didn’t exist, the autumn season is host to some of the most hectic and stressful times for an independent pharmacy. It’s basically like running a marathon at a sprinter’s pace — it’s easy to forget to catch your breath.

Make sure you’re still providing exceptional healthcare services for your community — and get ready for the autumn fun.

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