I Screen. You Screen.

An apple a day might keep the doctor away, but routine screens stop the need to intervene.

Community pharmacists know this. But do patients know how important routine screenings are to their health? Apparently not. As of 2015, only eight percent of U.S. adults received all the high-priority, appropriate preventive care recommended for them, according to researchers with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Nearly five percent of adults did not receive any such services at all.

“Some of the commonly known reasons for not getting the recommended preventive services include lack of health insurance; lack of a usual doctor or nurse; and problems with healthcare delivery, including wait times,” said Amanda Borsky, who led the study for the agency.

The National Academy of Medicine (formerly called the Institute of Medicine) estimates missed prevention opportunities cost the United States $55 billion each year—approximately 30 cents on every healthcare dollar.

Pharmacists are in a pivotal position to provide healthcare screenings, which in turn can improve the health of their patients and communities.

Pharmacies at the forefront

Pharmacists already provide medication therapy management services. They might offer relevant screening or assessment by appointment, which conveniently coincides with the time the patient already picks up meds. The pharmacist gets to know the patient better, learn about possible drug interactions, clear up any compliance confusion, or suggest a specific supplement or product.

For example, a patient may take high blood pressure medicine. But a screening shows their blood pressure is still stubbornly high. Do they understand the need to consistently take their meds? Do they inadvertently take an over-the-counter product with a counteractive effect? The pharmacist might suggest purchasing an affordable, easy-to-use blood pressure monitor, then demonstrate how to use it.

Bremo Pharmacy in Richmond, Virginia, has offered a range of screenings for many years. “Our health screenings attract new patients into our pharmacy, and our current patients like having access to them as well,” said Regina Richardson, PharmD, PIC. “They serve both groups well.”

Pharmacists and healthcare providers have traditionally focused on biometric-type screenings, such as blood pressure, blood sugar, and lipids.

Bremo added A1C tests last year and food sensitivity tests two years ago. “The food sensitivity tests are especially beneficial,” said Richardson. “It gives us a chance to educate the patient and take time counseling them about lifestyle, food choices, and any medications they take. Plus, the tests are sent out to a lab, so we don’t have to pre-order supplies that we might not use before their expiration date.”

Going beyond biometrics

The pandemic has highlighted the pressing need to focus on the whole person—particularly addiction and mental health.

Underscoring the urgency and scope of the issue, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended adults under age 65 get screened for anxiety and reiterated an earlier recommendation that all adults undergo routine screening for depression during routine care.

With screenings and clear, patient-prescriber-pharmacist communication and drug utilization reviews, pharmacists and staff can identify red flags such as “doctor shopping,” which can help mitigate the effects of substance abuse, particularly opioid dependency.

Screening is also considered the most effective way to prevent or reduce the impact of domestic violence. Seen as especially trustworthy and accessible healthcare providers, pharmacists don’t need expertise in interpersonal or intimate partner violence to help. It’s common to not quite know how to handle such situations—that’s okay. It’s a good idea to first determine, contact, and consult with local support services. Then, if a situation involving intimate partner violence abuse, assault or stalking arises, you’re ready to talk about personal safety, health concerns, and suggest a referral to resources or programs.

The National Health Resource Center on Domestic Violence provides patient brochures, safety plans, and educational tools to help healthcare providers respond to interpersonal and domestic violence in healthcare settings. Visit aaf.hhs.gov for details.

Offering screenings for the whole person can be profitable for your business and valuable for your community.

Promoting Your Screenings

Bremo Pharmacy in Richmond, Virginia, offers one free health screening per quarter on a revolving basis, including blood pressure, glucose, and bone density (the pharmacy’s most popular). Regina Richardson, PharmD, PIC at Bremo, suggests several simple, low-cost ways to promote screenings.

In-store publicity: Put up posters and hand out fliers to patients.

E-newsletters: Highlight the importance of screenings in your e-newsletter.

Website: Prominently feature a comprehensive list of the screenings you offer. Remember, patients expect you to dispense meds; they might be surprised by screenings.

Social media: Almost every day or month is designated to raise awareness of a health issue. Leverage any heightened awareness to promote complementary screenings, such as focusing on blood pressure in February (American Heart Month).

Is your pharmacy up to date on its health screenings?

Have a dedicated, private, and comfortable space for all screenings or other confidential interactions. You should also review recent clinical suggestions or take a continuing education class to ensure you’re up to date with current testing. It might also be a good idea to have a list of physicians for referral. Here are some of the more common screenings and assessments community pharmacists can include in their offerings:

  • Alcohol dependency
  • Anxiety
  • Balance and falls
  • Blood pressure
  • Bone density
  • Comprehensive medication review
  • Depression
  • Fasting blood glucose
  • Fasting cholesterol
  • Hearing
  • Hemoglobin A1C
  • HIV
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Non-fasting cholesterol (TC/HDL)
  • Opioid dependency
  • Sexually transmitted disease
  • Suicide
  • Tobacco usage

Listen up!

With over-the-counter hearing aids now available, you can test and treat your patients experiencing mild-to-moderate hearing loss. Just help them take an easy, accurate test online. The instant result will give you and your patients an idea of their “baseline” ability to hear. Then you can help them select the appropriate device. Be sure to have a plan to refer an audiologist if a patient shows signs of a more serious hearing problem or an underlying health issue. Learn more about how to profit by helping your patients by contacting PBA Health customer care at 800.333.8097 or customercare@pbahealth.com.

From the Magazine

This article was published in our quarterly print magazine, which covers relevant topics in greater depth featuring leading experts in the industry. Subscribe to receive the quarterly print issue in your mailbox. All registered independent pharmacies in the U.S. are eligible to receive a free subscription.

More articles from the December 2022 issue:

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