Top Software to Help Pharmacists Fight the Flu

By Mariia Kovalova

Exploring the flu-like cases reported between October 2022 and April 2023, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that the last influenza season was severe, especially for children and adolescents, putting additional strain on pharmacies.

For pharmacies in most of Europe, Canada, and the U.S., flu outbreaks result in peak demand and a significantly increased pressure on personnel, elevating their risk of burnout. During these trying times, pharmacy software systems come to the rescue.

Major flu-related challenges for pharmacies

Another study by the CDC found that pharmacies face around 20% increase in demand for antiviral medications and an additional 10% for over-the-counter (OTC) drugs between October and April. Pharmacists must be ready for these shifts, adjusting their inventory accordingly.

At the same time, pharmacies are the main point of vaccination for the public. In fact, 56% of the people surveyed by the Canadian Pharmacists Association intend on getting immunization shots at the nearest pharmacy instead of the doctor’s office. According to the CDC leaflet, pharmacists assess patients’ health, educate them about the available vaccines, their benefits and side effects, as well as perform inoculation.

Therefore, the main challenges most pharmacies face during contagious diseases’ outbreaks are:

  • Surge in demand for particular medications
  • Changes to customer buying patterns
  • Additional workload, including educational activities
  • Increase in patient flow
  • Elevated risk of contracting influenza from patients

The value of pharmacy software during the flu season

Software for pharmacies is a combination of tools for optimizing and streamlining routine workflows of the pharmaceutical company, leading to improved operational efficiency and greater profits. However, these systems are also critical to an organization’s resilience during increased demand and workload.

  1. Analytical and reporting software

Many pharma decision-makers are still hesitant to adopt analytical tools, questioning if they are worth the investment. However, the analytical modules allow pharmacists to prepare for the coming changes in patient buying behavior. Pharmacies can use data from previous years, as well as data shared by other healthcare organizations like hospitals, ERs, and private practitioners, to analyze when the flu season’s peak is expected, which customers are in the risk groups and would need special attention, which medications are likely to run out faster and should be ordered more frequently, and other patterns essential to running pharmaceutical business smoothly.

Analytical solutions work best when integrated with other systems (e.g., inventory management software, BPM, CRM, and EHRs) to draw insights and build predictions upon data relevant to a particular pharmacy.

  1. Documentation management software

A pharmacy document management solution automates the acquisition, processing, and storage of documentation coming from other healthcare institutions: medical records, treatment plans, data about different batches of drugs, order lists, etc. A pharmacy database is a part of this system. It can safely keep and handle patient personal and health information, unique medication barcodes, expiration dates, and other valuable data.

When pharmacists are pressed for time, the last thing they need is sifting through multiple pages of paper, looking for the essential details. Having all the information structured and easy to retrieve enables them to help patients faster.

  1. Inventory management software

Pharmacy inventory management solutions help pharmacy personnel monitor the stock availability, understand which prescriptions were claimed and unclaimed, create orders on time, and find the needed items faster.

Such functionality is crucial to prevent stockouts during the high season. However, it also ensures all medications are up-to-date and stored according to the regulations, as most vaccines are rendered useless if their handling regimen is breached. Inventory management software is often integrated with facility monitoring devices. This integration helps to automate the regulation of conditions for medication storage and ensure the potency of all available vaccines and drugs.

  1. Pharmaceutical ecommerce solutions

Online shopping has become an integral part of our everyday life. The National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) suggests that most patients expect to acquire their medication online as well. Ecommerce solutions enable pharmacies to open an additional sales channel, appeal to new customer segments, and yield higher profits.

There are many customers who are more comfortable shopping online and have meds delivered to their home. Selling products via ecommerce portals is also beneficial for pharmacists because they don’t risk being exposed to influenza and other highly contagious airborne diseases.

  1. Patient engagement solutions

Patient engagement solutions encompass many tools that help pharmacists connect with their customers via digital channels: messages, emails, online chats, and special customer platforms. During the flu season they are perfect for distributing valuable information on vaccination, promoting anti-influenza safety measures, as well as explaining the purpose and dosage of the various OTC drugs.

Patients can also check the availability of certain drugs, request refills in advance, and get common questions answered without the need to come to the pharmacy in person, significantly lowering the probability of contracting the disease or passing it on to others.

In conclusion

The 2023-2024 influenza season is upon us. Its severity could be exacerbated by new variants of COVID and nationwide healthcare staff shortages, among other factors.

During this time, all tools that can help pharmacies be a strong shield between the population and a potentially life-threatening disease are not a luxury but a necessity. However, pharma decision-makers must understand which software better covers their organization’s requirements to achieve better results.

Mariia Kovalova is a Healthcare Technology Researcher at Itransition, a custom software development company headquartered in Denver. Having working experience with both healthcare and IT industry, she is constantly on the lookout for technologies that will help providers optimize their processes, enhance patient experiences, and build up more resilience.