|The Convenience of a Drive-Through Immunization Clinic Appeals to Seniors |
By Carol Friedman, DO
Associate Director for Adult Immunizations
National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, CDC
American consumers value convenience, especially quick and easy access to products. Public health professionals are increasingly adopting consumer-oriented ideas from the business community to improve access to health care services. For example, Minute Clinics have been set up in CVS pharmacies and operate 7 days a week on a walk-in basis.
The drive-through clinic established by the Lakeland Regional Medical Center in Florida builds on this consumer-oriented trend. The drive-through concept was first adopted by businesses such as fast-food restaurants and banks to give Americans a faster and more convenient way to access their products.
At Lakeland, seniors drive or are driven to the hospital’s parking deck where nurses have set up vaccine stations. They wait in line 3 or 4 minutes before a nurse or nursing student briefly reviews their medical history and obtains a signed consent form. Seniors receive their shots without leaving their cars unless they prefer to be seated elsewhere. After a nurse monitors them briefly for adverse effects and hands them a confirmation card, seniors drive away.
The drive-through program has increased the number of seniors receiving their immunizations since it was implemented in 2002. As a result of the change in location from the hospital library, the number of seniors receiving immunizations increased from 130 in 1999 to more than 1,700 in 2008.
In addition to making the vaccines more accessible, the drive-through clinic provides free immunizations to seniors. Removing cost and other barriers is critical because many older Americans fail to get immunized. Influenza and pneumonia combined is the seventh leading cause of death for Americans age 65 and older.1 An estimated 63 percent of flu-related hospitalizations and 90 percent of flu-related deaths involve people age 65 and older.2
Another important reason for the success of the Lakeland program is that they marketed the vaccination program to their target audience. Seniors who were enrolled in the medical center's Senior Care Program receive an announcement about the vaccine clinic in the mail. The drive-through hours are also publicized in local media outlets. Interested seniors can call the hospital’s designated number to leave their name and phone number, and someone from the hospital staff calls them back to schedule their drive-through immunization during the 3-day program.
The drive-through vaccination program could be replicated for adults age 50 to 64, especially if the clinics are open after work in the evenings and on weekends. This age group is less likely to get vaccinated for influenza and pneumonia than the 65 and older age group because they may be unaware that they need these vaccinations—especially if their primary care provider doesn't recommend them. The marketing of a drive-through program to people in this age group would also need to target health care providers because having a recommendation from a personal physician motivates people to get vaccinated.
Pharmacies should also consider offering customers drive-through locations to both pick up their prescriptions and receive their influenza and pneumonia immunizations. Most states allow pharmacists to give flu shots and some pharmacies or large retailers like Walmart contract with community vaccinators such as nurses to set up an immunization clinic in the pharmacy.
1American Lung Association. Influenza Fact Sheet. September 2007. Available at: http://www.lungusa.org/lung-disease/influenza/in-depth-resources/influenza-fact-sheet.html.
2Adlrich N, Keyser C. CDC Says Immunizations Reduce Deaths from Influenza and Pneumococcal Disease Among Older Adults. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2008.
Disclosure Statement: Dr. Friedman has not indicated whether she has financial interests or business/professional affiliations relevant to the work described in this article.
Original publication: November 25, 2009.
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Last updated: May 01, 2013.
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