Hy-Vee pharmacist Tori McCarthy performs a rapid strep test on Donald Klepser of UNMC.
Getting tested and treated for the flu and strep throat became much easier in Omaha. It’s now as convenient as a trip to the grocery store. Hy-Vee, Inc., in collaboration with the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy and Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Mich., is one of the first pharmacies in the United States to offer customers a rapid-diagnostic influenza or Group A Streptococcus test.
Hy-Vee stores in Omaha and Papillion, Neb., are among 60 sites throughout three states that will have pharmacists trained to administer these tests, the results of which are available shortly after the test is given. In addition to the testing, pharmacists also will be able to fill prescriptions to treat identified illnesses, if needed, under strict protocol set by prescribing physicians.
The tests are part of a research study conducted by UNMC and Ferris State and are available to Hy-Vee customers who quality for the program. Participants must be at least 19 years of age and exhibit symptoms consistent with influenza or strep.
Other restrictions apply, such as the hours the tests are available at some pharmacies. Customers are urged to contact their Hy-Vee pharmacy if they are interested in either test.
During the study period, the tests will be administered without charge to customers with a voucher, which can be obtained at the pharmacy.
Community pharmacists like those at Hy-Vee are ideally suited to test and treat these illnesses quickly, professionally and cost-effectively, says UNMC’s Donald Klepser, PhD, principal investigator on a National Association of Chain Drug Stores Foundation grant to administer the program and study the results.
“People may not realize how many individuals come to the pharmacy first for treatment when they experience these symptoms. This allows those customers to expedite the diagnostic and treatment process in one location, without waiting to see their primary care physician,” Klepser says.
Michael Klepser, PharmD, a pharmacist and infectious diseases specialist at Ferris State (and brother of Donald Klepser), agreed, noting that people commonly self-treat for a day or two before going to the doctor. However, if a visit to the pharmacist is more accessible and convenient, people may not wait as long and treatment can be accomplished more quickly and effectively.
The timing of treatment is the key factor in stopping the flu, says Alan Jensen, MD, the prescribing physician for the Hy-Vee sites.
“I’m a primary care doctor and my job is to take care of folks,” says Jensen, an Omaha private practitioner and UNMC alumnus. “The quicker we can get them the medicine, the quicker we can abort the actual influenza. If we can have professionals – in the pharmacists – who can document that, yes, the patients have it, we can treat it. I said, ‘Let’s do this.’”
Hy-Vee’s pharmacists have undergone a training certification program, developed by the UNMC-Ferris State team, to administer the noninvasive Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendment (CLIA)-waived rapid tests. Pharmacists were already administering immunizations, and this process was the next logical step.
“At Hy-Vee we are committed to the health and wellness of our customers and communities,” says Bob Egeland, vice president of pharmacy at Hy-Vee. “Our pharmacists have long had the job of helping our customers get well and make educated choices in their treatments. This is just another way that we can improve our level of customer service and save people time and money when the situation warrants.”
In addition to Nebraska, tests also will be offered by other outlets in Minnesota and Michigan. This study is not intended to completely replace physician services, and customers may still need to visit their family healthcare provider.
Source: University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC)