8 ways to make adult vaccinations profitable
6 Look for pricing deals
Practices can receive email alerts announcing when manufacturers raise their vaccine prices. Before manufacturers raise their prices, they typically offer a grace period.
To buy vaccines prior to a manufacturer’s price increase, practices should look at when the vaccine’s price is going up, how much the practice has in storage, how many patients are scheduled to receive it during the next 30 to 60 days before deciding whether it’s cost-effective to purchase an additional lot before the price increases.
Manufacturers’ representatives are also usually good about bringing price sheets to the office in advance of increases. If Goldman sees there is going to be a price increase in the next 90 days, his medical assistant orders more product. “Because if you are vaccinating routinely, you are not going to have expired stock,” he says. If, however, practices have expired vaccines, many manufacturers will take them back and give credit for it.
7 Form an immunization team
Running a profitable vaccination program may take a team—someone to order vaccines and be alert for price increases, someone to monitor inventory and a biller who understands the codes, the software and all the billing systems and stays on top of fee schedules and raises them accordingly. Goldman does it all himself, but many practices prefer their office staff to handle these tasks. Office personnel involved in any aspect of the vaccine program may need additional training.
8 Alert patients when they are due for vaccinations
William Schaffner, MD, MACP, professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville and an infectious disease physician, urges physicians to implement electronic health record systems that include prompts to alert them when a patient needs a vaccination.
Goldman’s office routinely phones patients to remind them of their vaccination needs. “Flu and pneumonia are probably the most widely-given vaccines, but we also give a number of shingles, hepatitis and tetanus as well,” he says.
To compete with pharmacies or “minute clinics,” physicians should try to bring patients into their practice for vaccinations, even if it means temporarily adjusting practice operations.
“We run flu shot clinics where patients can just drop in to get their shot and not have to make an appointment or fill out paperwork,” says Jeffrey Kagan, MD, an internist in Newington, Connecticut and member of the Medical Economics editorial advisory board. “That’s one way to become more financially viable.”
Many patients would rather get vaccinated at their doctor’s office if it’s quick and easy, knowing it is being administered by a medical office versus someone at a retail clinic. Kagan gives about half his patient flu shots this way.
“You can make a profit anywhere from $10 to $50 per vaccine, depending on which vaccine it is,” says Goldman. “But more importantly than that, it is good patient care. It keeps the patient healthy, and prevents them from getting infections and keeps them out of the hospital.”
This should be the standard offering of every practice—to make sure adult patients are vaccinated appropriately as per published guidelines, and as per their individual case when it may differ from guidelines, says Aaron E. Glatt, MD, FACP, chairman of the department of medicine and hospital epidemiologist at South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside, New York.
“Physicians need to figure out a way to do this in the most economical way for them.”