Independent pharmacies are uniquely positioned to help their communities. COVID testing is still in high demand and there is a limited opportunity for our industry to provide the testing services their patients need and boost their profits.
At this point, COVID has been a significant issue in our lives for almost a year (doesn’t seem real!). Many pharmacies think it’s too late to get started with COVID testing – but it’s not. The sooner you start providing testing services, the sooner you will be able to help those in need, increase your patient base, and drive revenue into your pharmacy that the PBMs can’t touch.
You Decided to Provide Testing, Now What?
Once you’ve decided to bring testing into your pharmacy, the first consideration to make is do you have a CLIA Waiver.
If the answer is YES:
You are ready to go! You’ll want to make sure you are registered as an independent lab for billing (if applicable). With the waiver, you can collect samples and process tests in your pharmacy. You’re also able to bill cash OR insurance for the tests.
If the answer is NO:
You will need to obtain a CLIA Waiver if you plan to process directly in your pharmacy or if you plan to bill insurance. Without a CLIA Waiver, you can only collect the samples and send them to a CLIA compliant lab to process. Whatever process you choose, it is highly recommended to get a CLIA Waiver to make sure you are compliant and things go smoothly. The good news is it’s easy and fast! NCPA has a great video that shows you how to complete the waiver.
Implementation: Start with the Logistics
Decide what test(s) you will offer.
Questions to consider
What options do you want to provide for your customers? Some employers or travel companies require different types of tests. Do you want to provide the Rapid Antigen Test? The PCR Test? Both?
What kind of laboratory experience is required to administer the test and what level of training is needed?
What is the test sensitivity and specificity? The more accurate the tests you are using are, the more confidence you will be able to instill in your in patients. Along with this, you will also want to think about the speed of the test and how quickly your patients need results.
Discuss how you will document and bill for COVID testing.
Questions to consider
Are you going to charge your customers directly or bill insurance? You will need to take requirements into consideration. Many pharmacies have found that their customers WILL pay directly or with FSA/HSA. Patients are also able to submit for reimbursement through their medical insurance, and you can support them by providing the proper documentation.
Will you use a manual / paper process or set yourself up to operate online? A manual system works well for low volume testing but if demand is high, an online system will help you to automate processes and minimize disruptions to the pharmacy’s overall workflow. The advantages of using an online system are it allows you to implement an appointment-based model with automated scheduling, encourages contactless online payments, and it opens the window for vaccinations moving forward.
Check with your local health department for any reporting requirements.
Steps to take
Every state has their own requirements and they often differ, especially on the reporting side. We recommend that you start with your local county health department. They are normally very accessible and they will provide you will reporting requirements, specific forms for testing documentation, and requirements for waste generation.
Next, check with the board of pharmacy to ensure you are compliant. With the high demand for COVID information, you can often find information in their FAQs or on their website.
Once you have the logistics figured out, the next steps are to focus on education and workflow for your pharmacy and then execution. You can download the COVID Testing Implementation Plan that will give you the full list of steps you need to take to start testing in your pharmacy.
COVID Testing Success
Many independent pharmacies are successfully implementing testing in their pharmacies. By following a strategic implementation plan, educating your employees, and considering the needs of your community, you can provide testing and be profitable. One PDS Member, Carolina Pharmacy Group, started doing curbside COVID testing (both antigen and PCR testing) and saw immediate demand (and ROI!).
Since December, the Carolina team has done well over 6,000 tests. The pharmacy is not billing insurance and payments are made online. Currently they are experiencing an ROI of 10x.
“Honestly this is the best return the pharmacy has seen since generics hit our shelves.”
– Kavel Bhathela, PharmD and COVID Testing Lead at Carolina Pharmacy
Best practices for COVID testing
- The pharmacy hired outside nursing staff to help with the tests to minimize disruption to their regular workflow and not cross-pollinate the pharmacy team with the testing team.
- They gained their team’s confidence by properly training them about the transmission of COVID, proper hygiene and PPE usage.
- The pharmacy provided education on the different tests available to the public and their application.
Carolina Pharmacy is now offering services to help other independent pharmacies provide testing, help their communities, and increase their bottom line. Visit their website to learn more or place an order.