Access to excellent healthcare is an ongoing need in the United States, especially during colder seasons when sickness increases. If future seasonal illnesses are as prevalent as they were in 2017, doctor’s offices and emergency rooms will flood with patients seeking relief from influenza and strep throat. The state of Kentucky sought to solve this problem by enabling new protocols allowing pharmacies to work collaboratively with physicians to offer point-of-care (POC) testing, therapies, and prescriptions all within the pharmacy for specific conditions.
West Knox Pharmacy in Corbin, KY, was one of the first pharmacies to embrace this legislation. Pharmacists Jennifer Baker and Sam Moore underwent a required 20-hour certification course to learn these new flu and strep protocols. Then, they had to form a collaborative practice agreement with a local physician, who would authorize West Knox to initiate therapy when patients tested positive for an illness.
Since POC testing became available at the pharmacy in November, the news has exploded over West Knox county. Local newspapers and TV stations have interviewed Jennifer and Sam about this innovative service. Thanks to word-of-mouth and local news outlets, the message about West Knox Pharmacy’s POC testing spread rapidly. “The patient response has been overwhelmingly positive,” Sam describes. “It’s a new opportunity for us, as pharmacists, to participate a little more deeply in the patients’ care and use the things we’ve been trained to do as doctor of pharmacy students but have never been able to take advantage of.”
The West Knox team remodeled the inside of the store to create a room to conduct examinations and go over results and education with patients. The cost for a test begins at $19.95 (OTC and prescription medications not included), and Jennifer estimates the entire process takes no more than 20 minutes. “With the assessment, the test, and the prescription, it’s much faster to stop by here than the urgent care clinic or doctor’s office, only to wait for hours and still end up at the pharmacy,” she says.
Of course, there are instances when the pharmacists must refer a patient to their primary care provider, but this protocol has been impactful to all parties involved. Customers experience the convenience of a “one-stop shop,” and pharmacies receive extra income from the testing, OTC sales, and the prescriptions dispensed if the results are positive. The local doctor who agreed to collaborate with West Knox was excited about this project’s potential. “This is a physician who currently works as a hospitalist, and he has done a lot of work in the ER,” says Sam. “When I presented what we wanted to do, he was overjoyed at the idea of lightening the load of the ER department.”
West Knox Pharmacy continuously provides services that are not commonly found in Kentucky. It is one of the few compounding pharmacies in the state that offers hormone replacement therapy, and it is also one of the few stores to take advantage of these new practices. Jennifer, Sam, and their staff strive to specialize in new, lucrative services that help them stand out and stay on top of their profitability. “We came into this industry knowing reimbursements weren’t going to be good, so we always have to explore different options,” Jennifer explains. She and Sam plan to adopt more protocols approved by the Board, including tobacco cessation, diabetes testing supplies, and epinephrine autoinjectors (EpiPen) for anaphylaxis.
For pharmacists in states that haven’t approved legislation for POC testing, Sam’s advice is simple. “Just ask. Ask your state pharmacy organization to get it moving,” he says. “We actually had a couple of professors from the University of Kentucky call and get this legislation moving since they have access to the legislators. Just ask!”
Protocols like these present independent pharmacies with a unique opportunity to become sought-after partners to local providers and an essential source of health to their communities.