In a recent session from the Pharmacy Development Services 2021 Virtual Super-Conference, held virtually on May 20 and 21, experts from Becton, Dickinson and Company (BD) and PTS Diagnostics discussed how pharmacy owners can reinforce their store as a destination for proactive health by incorporating point-of-care (POC) into their practice.
Megan Wimmer, MBA, global health economics and outcomes research manager, BD, and Beth Russell, senior manager, PTS Diagnostics, highlighted the importance of capitalizing on the POC testing market and options for POC testing capabilities within the pharmacy space.
For patients, the pharmacy is often the most accessible entry point into the US health system. With an estimated 13 billion annual pharmacy visits, pharmacists are in a prime position to drive customer demand and satisfaction through POC testing.
“There are 10 times as many pharmacy access points as there are all other primary care providers,” Wimmer explained, particularly from an equity and access perspective. “You are actually critically important to being…the first point of entry to the health care system for many of these patients.”
Carrying out POC testing can also drive revenue for your pharmacy and help prevent antimicrobial resistance, according to Wimmer. She said that more than 70% of symptomatic patients receive an antibiotic. POC testing can aid in reducing unnecessary use of antibiotic prescriptions and antimicrobial-resistant infection risks. “Also from a patient education standpoint, you can really help eliminate fear, especially of certain infectious diseases,” Wimmer added. She cited COVID-19 as an example.
“Maybe you have a parent with a young child who’s ill. They’re pretty distraught, they’re upset about maybe [having COVID-19] or the flu and they want an…antibiotic,” Wimmer said. By directing the patient to a POC test, the pharmacist is able to determine the most appropriate method of care based on the results and offer valuable guidance on why antibiotics may not be the best course of action. “So that way, instead of pushback, you’re bringing them along. And so, diagnostics can be one way to help explain the treatment choices,” she said.
Wimmer discussed an example of how one pharmacy uses group A streptococcus (group A strep) POC testing. The pharmacy enabled a simple center score rubric to evaluate patient risk, where a score greater than 1 prompted a POC test. A positive or negative test determined whether the patient was treated with an OTC medication or with an appropriate antibiotic as outlined in a community practice agreement (CPA). “The results were that 278 out of 316 patients were actually screened by pharmacists and deemed eligible for management right in the pharmacy,” Wimmer reviewed. Additionally, 44% of patients visited the pharmacy during hours when a physician’s office would typically be closed, further underscoring the significance of having POC testing capability at the store. “Almost half had no primary care provider,” Wimmer added. On the other hand, individuals who were not deemed eligible for management in the pharmacy can be referred to their provider, according to Wimmer.
For pharmacy owners wondering what the first steps are for carrying out POC testing, Wimmer said that getting started is pretty simple. Owners can follow these steps:
BD offers a variety of tests, including for SARS-CoV-2, influenza A + B, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and group B strep. The company will also be launching a combination SARS-CoV-2 and flu A + B test this summer. Moreover, the BD ImageMover app can help interpret test results.
On top of testing for infectious diseases like COVID-19 and influenza, POC testing also covers lipid panels and glycated hemoglobin (A1c) tests. “We have found that, through COVID, many patients have avoided going to their physician or their lab to keep up with their lipids and their A1c’s, which both are equally important,” Russell said. The consequences of patients neglecting these regimens can be serious, and pharmacists are able to address these maintenance gaps.
PTS Diagnostics has Cardiocheck and A1c Now monitors that are CLIA waived, have current procedural terminology (CPT) codes and are reimbursable by Medicare, depending on the state and whether the test was prescribed by a physician.
Given the impressive potential for POC testing to boost patient satisfaction, demand, and care, Wimmer encourages pharmacy owners to consider incorporating these capabilities into their store.
“You are that resource for patients to provide access to care…Using diagnostics, you can give information, explanation and support of your decisions. And [it’s] also a great way not only to support those patients, but prevent, in certain cases, antimicrobial resistance, ” Wimmer concluded.