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According to the numbers, at-home test kits are going to continue to be an area of market growth.
Pharmacies are where most people go to buy at-home diagnostic tests and health-monitoring devices. Sales for certain categories of devices and test kits for at-home diagnosing increased more than 10% in 2012, which is in addition to a 35% rise seen in the two previous years.
At-home diagnostic products include blood glucose monitors, A1C test kits, and monitoring supplies (including lancets and test strips); home pregnancy and ovulation tests; blood pressure monitors; blood cholesterol level monitors; heart-rate monitors; and kits that require a blood or other tissue sample to be sent out for testing, such as test kits for blood cholesterol levels, HIV, hepatitis C, and DNA tests that can be used to prove paternity.
“Consumer self-awareness and self-control monitoring is here,” said Jennifer Johnston, marketing communications specialist with the Hamacher Resource Group, Inc., in Waukesha, Wisc. “Pharmacies need to promote this.” Hamacher Research Group is a research, marketing, and category management firm specializing in retail consumer healthcare.
Home diagnostics, both devices and tests, do not occupy a single sales category, said Johnston, but instead are found in the home healthcare, diabetes care, and family-planning categories.
For drugstores alone, home health products - which include blood-pressure and blood glucose monitors but not pregnancy or fertility tests - registered nearly $283 million in sales for the year ending October 7, 2012, according to Symphony IRI, a business intelligence provider, Johnston said. Sales of pregnancy and fertility tests in drugstores were an additional $12 million in that period.
Sales for home health kits reached $440 million for all food markets and drugstores, not including Walmart, said Johnson, which means that drugstores have 64% of these sales. Over the last two years, sales of home health kits have risen by 10.66%. Blood glucose monitors and supplies account for 79% of sales in the diabetes care category. In the family planning category, pregnancy and fertility tests account for 25% of sales.
“I’ve seen a slight uptick in interest from people over the last couple of years,” said Marvin Moore, PharmD, owner of the Medicine Shoppe, an independent pharmacy in Two Rivers, Wisc. “This may be due to the fact that there are more of these tests out there now.” His pharmacy stocks seven different blood pressure monitors and four different glucometers, as well as three different brands of pregnancy test kits.
Moore does not stock the cholesterol testing kit or cholesterol monitors. Instead, he offers in-store cholesterol testing to his customers, charging $20 for a cholesterol test, which includes a consultation with the pharmacist. In the session, pharmacist and patient will discuss what the numbers mean and what steps should be taken to reach a good cholesterol level.
Moore also offers in-store blood glucose testing. Since his store is in an area where many people may not be able to afford a blood-pressure cuff, he takes blood-pressure readings for free. “It’s a service to the community,” he said.
Hamacher Research Group advises pharmacies to display the home diagnostics tests and devices in the store by disease state, with blood-pressure cuffs and cholesterol tests in a cardiac care area, for example, rather than putting all types of tests and devices in one spot in the store, said Johnston. Having them in both a special section for at-home monitoring and in sections devoted to a specific disease would be good, but most stores may not have the space for such an arrangement, she added.
Customers will often need advice or education when buying tests and devices, Johnston said. If these products are all in one place, that spot should be close to the pharmacy to make it convenient for customers to ask for advice. Keeping the section near the pharmacy also makes it easier for the pharmacist to recommend a cholesterol-monitoring device to a customer when dispensing cholesterol-lowering agents. Pharmacies can also host occasional demonstration events to promote the devices, she added.
Staff should also be educated about these products and what they can and cannot do for customers. “Helping customers become comfortable with the reliability - and ease - of using these devices is paramount,” she said.
Valerie DeBenedetteis a medical news writer in Putnam County, N.Y.