With influenza raging across all 50 states and healthcare systems taxed to the breaking point in some areas, pharmacies that offer both immunizations and point-of-care testing for the flu and other infectious diseases can fill a critical need. Patients who are accustomed to receiving flu shots at their community pharmacy find it natural to return for a flu test if they feel under the weather. Both services contribute to building relationships through multiple points of contact that reinforce loyalty—and increase revenue.
With the nation in the grip of a flu epidemic that appears to be building—and at least one state having already declared a state of emergency—pharmacists are on the front line of influenza prevention and, increasingly, treatment. That combination bodes well for the bottom line of community pharmacies.
Many people who have avoided coming down with this year’s particularly virulent strain have a pharmacist to thank. According to a study published in Clinical Therapeutics, the change in laws that allowed pharmacists to deliver influenza vaccines led to an additional 5.1 million vaccinations between 2003 and 2013 and to an overall growth in vaccination rates from 32.2% to 40.3%. For pharmacies, the impact extended well beyond the net increase in vaccinations as many patients who had received immunization at their physician’s office switched to the more convenient pharmacy, resulting in a rise in pharmacist-delivered doses from 3.2 million to 20.9 million over the period.
Increasingly, patients are also looking to the same pharmacist to tell them whether they have been infected by the virus. Community pharmacies across the country now offer point-of-care (POC) testing for influenza and a growing number of other infectious diseases and chronic conditions.
Research shows that developing strong relationships at multiple levels drives successful implementation of profitable POC testing in community pharmacies. According to a study published in the Journal of Pharmacy Practice, pharmacies that successfully integrate POC testing draw on state resources and professional networks to ensure they comply with federal and state requirements from the start.
Once they have certification to run Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments-waived tests and have conducted staff training, they build collaborative relationships with local physicians to enable them to deliver the appropriate therapy to patients that test positive. That ability to test and treat in one visit is critical to providing the convenience patients seek and, in this flu season, to ensuring patients receive therapy during the initial 48 hours of the disease when it is most effective.
Offering walk-in testing and treatment also creates additional points of engagement with patients, creating greater loyalty and the opportunity to provide additional services such as medication therapy management and testing for chronic conditions such as diabetes.
Pharmacies that leverage POC testing into additional revenue continually evaluate the financial impact of tests and their value to patients. They also make appropriate workflow changes to make the process as efficient as possible and market the services to attract new patients as well as raise the awareness among existing patients.
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