Will patient screenings and advanced, gene-based diagnostics become a standard and universally accepted part of community pharmacy’s service platform?
Absolutely, and sooner rather than later, many industry experts predict.
This is in line with the basic training pharmacists receive from within their pharmacy schools and is well within the scope of competency for pharmacists.
For retail pharmacies, point-of-care testing services are “going to be bigger than immunizations,” said Michael Klepser, professor of pharmacy practice at Ferris State University.
This would be driven by the fact that GP’s have not been diligent in allowing their patients quick and convenient access to their results, and that pharmacies are a more convenient outlet to have their results explained to them.
In many instances, GP patients never receive an explanation.
Behind Klepser’s assertion are some indisputable facts driving the embrace of pharmacy-based diagnostics by patients, pharmacists and physicians.
The shrinking pool of overburdened family doctors is shifting more primary care services to pharmacists, just as the field of genomics explodes and rapid advances in diagnostic technology put cheap, easy-to-use screening tools into the hands of pharmacists.
These statements apply to Australia as well as the US.
With the rapid growth of gene-specific testing services, pharmacists can simply take a swab of a patient’s cheek and send the saliva sample to a lab for genetic profiling and diagnosis.
And a nanotech-enabled platform called GeneRADAR — from a company called Nanobiosym — provides almost instant diagnosis of any disease or wellness biomarker from a drop of a patient’s blood on a device roughly the size of a smart phone.
Meanwhile, health plan payers are on a desperate quest to cut costs with alternative-site patient screenings and more rapid diagnosis and treatment of diseases.
This is a perpetual quest with these types of organisations who usually end up commoditising any professional service on offer.
There’s also “a greater focus by risk-based providers on getting high-cost diseases diagnosed early [for] timely evidence-based treatment,” said Doug Long, VP industry relations for IMS Health.
The American Pharmacists Association agrees. “Consumer demand for pharmacogenetic testing is growing, and the interpretation of results by pharmacists or prescribers regarding pharmacogenetic tests may soon become a part of routine clinical practice,” APhA said.
Biometric testing fits in neatly with PGA’s entry to clinical services and a thrust into primary health care.
Primary health care in particular is a market spread out on a wide front, and is almost impossible for one segment of the health professions (GP’s) to stake out leadership claims.
GP’s will always feature strongly in primary health care, as will pharmacists.
The territory will form up around convenience and cost.
Even early evidence from vaccination programs suggests that some patients are willing to pay for pharmacy convenience and interaction rather than a subsidised service through a medical practitioner.
The element of wearing out your own “shoe leather” from all the referrals mad by a G.P is also wearing down patient motivation.
Keep it simple, stupid!