Giving pharmacists an incentive to talk with their patients about vaccines could prevent thousands of influenza cases each year.
Researchers at the University of Waterloo found that, in Ontario, Canada, introducing a $15 consultation fee for pharmacists who consult patients over 65-years-old and over could prevent approximately 2,400 influenza cases, which result in three deaths, per year.
“Given the high level of interactions pharmacists have with this vulnerable age group, encouraging these discussions at the community level could greatly reduce the number of seniors impacted by the disease,” said Gokul Raj Pullagura, a PhD candidate at Waterloo and lead author on the study. “Because preventing illness is far more effective at managing suffering and health care costs than treatment, a consultation fee could be a cost-effective way of managing increasing service demands during flu season.”
As part of the study, the researchers used computer modelling to assess the cost-effectiveness and impact of introducing a $15 influenza consultation fee for community pharmacists. The cost-utility model incorporated a variety of factors, including costs of vaccinations, the proposed fee, administration feeds, and the costs of hospitalizations when seniors catch the flu.
The study concluded that introducing a consultation fee, in addition to the current practice of providing remuneration for administration of a vaccine, would cost approximately $2 more per person to implement while saving considerable costs the results from hospitalization.
“Community prevention is far more effective at reducing costs and suffering than hospitalization,” said Pullagura. “Considering our current method of encouraging people to get the flu shot is resulting in low vaccination rates, using pharmacists to their full potential could be a cost-effective way of achieving our goals.”
In Ontario, pharmacists have been able to give influenza vaccinations since 2012. Ontario’s current influenza vaccination rate is 34 per cent, which is nearly 50 per cent below the ideal vaccination rate outlined by Health Canada.
In Ontario’s 2016/17 flu season, influenza resulted in nearly 3,900 cases of hospitalization and 260 deaths. A total of 85 per cent of deaths and 70 per cent of hospitalizations were seniors.
The study, Cost-utility analysis of offering a novel remunerated community-pharmacist consultation service on influenza vaccination for seniors in Ontario, Canada, appears in the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association.