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What is Point of Care Testing? The Emerging Role of Pharmacies

What is Point of Care Testing

Point-of-care testing (POCT) is a form of off-site clinical testing conducted at or near the site of patient care. With the aid of sophisticated devices and testing kits, point-of-care testing provides patients with a quicker and more accessible alternative to traditional off-site laboratory testing. 

Not long ago, only certified clinical practitioners could perform point-of-care testing. However, due to recent technological advancements – combined with the urgent demand for more accessible testing brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic – a new group of healthcare professionals has emerged in the point-of-care market. 

 

The Emerging Role of Pharmacies

Gone are the days when a pharmacist’s sole responsibility was to dispense and manage prescription medications. Due to more robust education, pharmacists now play a more holistic role in healthcare service. 

For example, patients can now visit their local pharmacy for services such as:

  • Immunizations
  • Pharmacist-led weight-loss programs
  • Medication therapy management
  • Adherence packaging & medication synchronization
  • Point-of-care testing

This last service, point-of-care testing, has gained significant importance in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

 

Pharmacies and Point of Care Testing

The urgent demand for large-scale COVID-19 testing has placed significant strain on the healthcare system the past two years. Traditional laboratory testing, though accurate and effective, has proved to be an insufficient solution to the nation’s COVID-19 testing needs due to its lack of efficiency and long wait times. 

However, thanks to the creation of sophisticated testing kits, laboratories are no longer the only solution to COVID-19 testing. Now, testing is quicker and more accessible than ever, and pharmacies are at the forefront of administering it. 

COVID-19 testing is not the only form of POCT to be embraced by pharmacies, either. Just as COVID-19 testing has become sophisticated enough to bypass traditional laboratories, so have a number of other clinical testing services.

Here at Community Pharmacy, we offer patients a wide selection of point-of-care testing services, including:

  • Blood Pressure (BP) Screening
  • Flu Tests
  • Cholesterol Screenings
  • Strep Tests
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Tests
  • Hemoglobin A1C Testing
  • COVID-19 testing

 

POCT: Blood Pressure (BP) Screenings 

No matter your age, it is important to consistently measure your blood pressure levels. High blood pressure rarely shows visible symptoms and can contribute to serious health problems such as heart disease and stroke

Measuring your blood pressure is now easier than ever. Instead of having to visit your doctor to stay on top of your blood pressure levels, you can now visit your local pharmacy or even buy a home testing kit. 

Note: Pharmacy and at-home blood pressure monitoring is not a replacement for doctor visits but a way to complement your physician care. 

 

POCT: Flu Tests

If you have reason to believe you have contracted the influenza virus, there are two primary point-of-care testing methods to choose from when visiting your local pharmacy. They include:

Note: Not all flu tests are CLIA-waived for point-of-care use. Consult your local pharmacy for more information on available flu tests. 

 

POCT: Cholesterol Screenings

According to the National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute (NHLBI), it is recommended to receive your first cholesterol screening between the ages of 9 and 11, then once every five years thereafter. 

High cholesterol levels can lead to a number of health complications, most notably coronary artery disease. Unlike other clinical tests, cholesterol tests are used to estimate the risk of developing a disease, as opposed to diagnosing it. 

Thankfully, point-of-care cholesterol testing is quick, easy, and available at many local pharmacies. A healthcare professional simply takes a small sample of the patient’s blood, and results are calculated in a matter of minutes. 

 

POCT: Strep Tests

Strep throat is most common in children and manifests initially as a sore throat. Most sore throats are caused by a virus of some sort, but strep derives from a type of bacteria known as Group A Streptococcus

If you have ever had strep throat, you know how uncomfortable it can be. Fortunately, rapid POC strep tests can help patients diagnose this common bacterial infection early on to curtail the severity of its symptoms. 

Perhaps of equal importance, a strep test lowers the chances of misdiagnosing strep throat so you are not over-prescribed unnecessary antibiotics. 

 

POCT: Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Tests

RSV is a common respiratory virus that causes mild, cold-like symptoms. It is so common, in fact, that most children contract the virus by the age of two

When left untreated, RSV can lead to bronchiolitis and pneumonia, especially for young children, elderly adults, and individuals with weakened immune systems. There are three different types of RSV tests you can receive:

  • Nasal aspirate
  • Swab test
  • Blood test

Similar to the flu, RSV is more prevalent in certain times of the year. The RSV season in the United States usually lasts between mid-fall to early spring. 

 

POCT: Hemoglobin A1C Testing

A1C is a type of blood test used to measure blood sugar levels and diagnose or monitor prediabetes and diabetes.

The CDC recommends that adults over the age of 45 receive a baseline A1C test. However, even if you are 45 or younger, it is also recommended that you receive an A1C test if you have one or more of the diabetes risk factors listed here

There are a number of point-of-care A1C testing devices that have been approved for monitoring glycemic control in individuals with diabetes. However, as of 2021, none of these devices have been cleared by the FDA for diagnosing type 2 diabetes (which currently requires lab testing). 

 

POCT: COVID-19 Testing

One of the most important point-of-care tests to emerge in recent years is rapid COVID-19 testing. There are two types of COVID-19 tests: one that detects an active infection (such antigen and RT-PCR tests) and another that detects past infection (an antibody test).

For more information on COVID-19 tests, visit our resource page here. Community Pharmacy offers both active and antibody tests at all five of our Texas locations. 

 

About Community Pharmacy

Community Pharmacy is a locally and family owned pharmacy that has been serving Texas since 1982. With locations in Denton, Corinth, Lewisville, and Flower Mound, we strive to provide an effortless pharmacy experience that patients can look forward to. Our caring and knowledgeable staff is committed to providing the highest quality service with integrity and compassion to meet the needs of those we serve.

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