POC testing makes it possible for patients to receive the treatment or the advice they need almost immediately upon their arrival at the pharmacy counter

Although a visit to the pharmacy is often the last stop before heading home after a medical appointment, there are increasingly times when it should be the place to start. Perhaps more importantly, given certain kinds of conditions that don’t call for urgent attention, it might just be the very thing a patient needs to avoid having to schedule a consultation with their family practice physician in the first place.


That alone can save a lot of time, money, and even a fair amount of anxiety.


No doubt that idea should ring a bell—as well as a pleasant chime at the register.


The key is point-of-care (POC) testing for things like strep throat and other conditions that involve performing basic diagnostic tests onsite within the retail environment. Trending data shows that pharmacies across the USA have been expanding their roles as patient-care services providers in compliance with the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendment (CLIA) Act of 1988. As it stands currently, CLIA provides pharmacists with a sound legal and clinical foundation for administering tests for glucose and cholesterol levels, as well as doing routine throat swabs to determine if, for example, that sore throat is just a sore throat or is, in fact, something more serious.


Either way, the move to POC testing represents an exciting development for patients who may now be able to receive the treatment or the advice they need almost immediately upon their arrival at the pharmacy counter.


Appearing in a brief video clip posted on pharmarcytimes.com, Bruce Kneeland, PharmD, senior advisor at Kneeland Services, spoke about how many US pharmacies already provide these services without the need for an appointment.


“In the broadest sense, we’re talking about the pharmacist’s ability to, under protocol, under a collaborative practice agreement with a physician do a simple swab test,” Kneeland said. “And immediately within minutes, determine whether or not [the patient] has strep throat or the flu, and [if needed], fill the prescription for an antibiotic right then.”


Many locally owned, neighborhood pharmacies across the US are already providing these services; which turns out to be just as big of advantage for independents competing with the larger, big-box giants as it is for other entrepreneurs looking to find a place in the mix with other chain-driven organizations.


Typically, four-square, cookie-cutter retail locations don’t step up to the counter with the same offerings. So, it’s important for family run pharmacies outside the big systems to become more education-oriented on behalf of their customers, especially those who stand to benefit the most from more inclusive, proactive POC-testing across the board.


Referencing the current state of (POC) testing in the US on its website at ncpanet.org, the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) suggested areas for growth may include chronic disease screening for conditions like HIV and Hepatitis C, as well as for chronic disease monitoring of A1c levels in diabetes patients and anticoagulation therapy for individuals at greater risk of stroke or heart attack.


A comprehensive list of CLIA-waived tests is available at the US Food & Drug Administration website here.