Q: What were some of the obstacles you faced when you first started offering point-of-care testing at your pharmacy? How did you overcome them?
My biggest obstacle initially was fear of how this would be received by the prescribers in my community. I overcame this by simply asking a few of them what they thought about it and was pleasantly surprised at how very receptive they were. Another obstacle was the uncertainty surrounding the actual testing process. How was I going to actually collect the samples needed? How do you swab someone's nose? Their throat? Get a blood sample? Like anything new, I had to educate myself and my staff on these new tests and then with just a little practice, we have become quite comfortable!
Q: Have new patients visited your store for rapid diagnostic tests or wellness screenings? Please describe.
Yes, in fact, most of the patients that we tested this past season for flu and/or strep were new to us. A local college had a pretty severe flu outbreak on campus and sent many of their students our way who previously had never been here before. We also found that word of mouth spreads about as fast as the flu! Several of the people we have tested found out about us from friends or family members who we had previously screened.
Q. What are the next steps that you take when a patient tests positive for flu or strep?
In Texas we do not have prescriptive authority, so we fax the patient's results to their primary care physician if they have one. If they do not, we counsel them on how to possibly manage their condition with over the counter/natural remedies.
Q: Can you list three benefits you’ve seen as a result of offering patient care services in your pharmacy?
Offering point-of-care testing has increased our visibility in the community as a healthcare destination. It has increased our sales, both over the counter and prescription. It also provides our staff a certain level of professional satisfaction to be able to reach maybe a little outside of our comfort zone to provide something new and valuable to our patients.
Q: What pleasantly surprised you about partnering with local physicians to provide care to shared patients?
I was surprised at how receptive they were to us offering point-of-care testing! They seemed to appreciate the ease of the process and the fact that it saves their patients time and money. Prescribers these days are all so busy. These very sick patients are in need of immediate care, and with their busy schedules it is hard to fit those patients in the same day. They seem to really be open to the idea of us helping them out in this manner.
Q: What different marketing tactics did you use in your community to make them aware you were offering diagnostic testing and wellness screenings?
Well, the marketing piece is constantly evolving. We started out just putting up some posters in the store and doing some bag clippers. Then we added messaging to our IVR system. Posting videos on Facebook seems to be well received, better than just posting a few lines of text. We have hired a marketer and now we go out and visit with physician offices, home health agencies and senior centers to spread the word about all the services that we offer. Our next targets are local industries and school districts. We want to educate the larger employers in our area about how things like flu and strep testing can help head off an outbreak that could be crippling to their operations and how other tests like cholesterol and glucose can make sure that their employees are staying on track with their health goals.
Q: What piece of advice would you offer another pharmacist that is considering a Point-of-Care Testing Program in their pharmacy?
Just do it. Yes, it's scary, but so were immunizations at one point in our careers and now look at us! This is a great opportunity to expand your offerings to your communities, don't let fear of something new hold you back.
Q. As a member of the Point-of-Care Testing Program, how has the addition of blood glucose and cholesterol screenings help to add value to the offering?
Adding blood glucose and cholesterol screenings is quite different from flu and strep testing as it isn't something that serves a need that is perceived to be immediate. Since these screenings focus more on patients' long-term health goals, they provide us a fantastic opportunity to promote ourselves as wellness providers. Maybe a patient only sees their physician once a year, but because they see us much more often, we are in a great position to help them stay on track between those visits. Having a pharmacist more involved in their healthcare gives our patients a greater chance of being their healthiest self!