Are Lab Tests the Next Flu Shots? How to Offer Lab Testing in Your Pharmacy

Are Lab Tests the Next Flu Shots? How to Offer Lab Testing in Your Pharmacy by Elements magazine |

Inside: Discover how offering lab tests can increase pharmacy revenue, differentiate the business, and offer patients a beneficial health service. 

Every year, independent community pharmacies offer more health services to patients. But many still don’t offer one of the easiest and most underrated pharmacy revenue opportunities: lab tests.

Traditionally, physicians administer lab tests. But the market is ripe for pharmacies to enter it.

To put the opportunity in perspective, consider flu shots. Flu shots are now one of the most popular services offered by pharmacies.

Healthcare providers administer approximately 120 million flu shots each year. Which sounds like a lot. Until you compare it to the 7 billion lab tests conducted annually. That’s 58 times larger than the market for flu shots.

The market size presents independent pharmacies with a lucrative opportunity. Pharmacies that offer lab testing can both increase their revenue and diversify it.

And this new market isn’t only a chance to capture pharmacy revenue. “Offering lab testing services enables the pharmacy to differentiate itself from the competition,” said John Beckner, Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives at the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA). “They can bundle lab testing with immunizations and other patient care offerings to enhance their competitive position in the marketplace.”

The big benefits of lab tests

Beyond earning the pharmacy revenue, lab tests improve the pharmacy’s long-term outlook. This service can help a pharmacy evolve into a healthcare destination, which patients want today.

“It provides an opportunity to expand the pharmacy’s healthcare offering, which helps with customer acquisition, customer retention, and the conversion of front-end customers who may not be using the pharmacy,” Beckner said.

Lab testing can also deepen the relationship between pharmacists and their patients. Offering these tests enables pharmacists to provide more comprehensive health consultations. And to potentially improve health outcomes.

“If the patient is willing to share the results with the pharmacist,” Beckner said, “the pharmacist can be a source of referral for other healthcare providers as well as use the results to improve medication adherence and effectiveness and to enhance patient safety.”

And, when pharmacists have access to patients’ lab results, they can identify vitamin and nutrition deficiencies and recommend supplements from their front end, further increasing pharmacy revenue.

One way to offer lab testing

Pharmacies today use various organizations to offer health screenings, point-of-care testing, and pharmacogenomics lab testing. NCPA offers one solution.

NCPA has partnered with Ulta Lab Tests, which provides affordable, physician-approved laboratory testing services for more than 100 conditions and life stages.

“We felt strongly that this was a valuable service our member pharmacies could take advantage of and offer to their patients and customers,” Beckner said. “By integrating Ulta Lab Tests’ innovative services within community pharmacies, customers can order select low-priced lab tests without the need to obtain a prescription from a local physician. They have easy access to hundreds of lab tests through a co-branded website.”

The extra pharmacy revenue generated by lab tests requires low investment from the pharmacy.

Ulta Lab Tests provides:

  • A co-branded website
  • Marketing materials
  • The lab testing
  • Everything else to promote and execute the tests

“The pharmacy’s primary role is to serve as an access point for patients ordering tests,” Beckner said. “Pharmacists can also help patients select the most appropriate tests for them.” And then Ulta Lab Tests pays the pharmacy an administrative fee for each test.

When a pharmacy partners with Ulta Lab Tests, the company creates a website for the pharmacy. The pharmacy’s patients go the website to choose the test they want, pay for it, and take the receipt to a Quest Diagnostic center to have blood drawn. When the results are available, patients view them online.

Patients pay for the test out-of-pocket. Or, they apply for reimbursement from their insurance company. “The patient’s receipt includes the ‘CPT Codes’ that most insurance companies require for reimbursement,” Beckner said.

Patients submit their receipt and their insurance provider’s claim form. If approved, the amount patients paid may apply toward their deductible.

Or, they’ll receive direct reimbursement based on their benefits plan. Patients can’t submit reimbursement claims from any state, federal, or other governmentally funded health plan or program, including Medicare, Medicaid, or any subsidized exchange policy.

Better for health care

Lab testing through independent pharmacies isn’t just a lucrative business venture for pharmacies. It’s good for health care and patients, too.

“In many areas, community pharmacists are the only accessible healthcare provider and are a resource for vital patient-focused services,” Beckner said. Lab testing “allows community pharmacists to continue their commitment to driving better health outcomes for patients by giving them direct access to information about their own health at lower costs.”

Learn more about Ulta Lab Tests


A Member-Owned Company Serving Independent Pharmacies

PBA Health is dedicated to helping independent pharmacies reach their full potential on the buy-side of their business. Founded and owned by pharmacists, PBA Health serves independent pharmacies with group purchasing services, wholesaler contract negotiations, proprietary purchasing tools, and more.

An HDA member, PBA Health operates its own NABP-accredited secondary wholesaler with more than 6,000 SKUs, including brands, generics, narcotics CII-CV, cold-storage products, and over-the-counter (OTC) products — offering the lowest prices in the secondary market.

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Elements is written and produced by PBA Health, a buy-side solutions company.

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