Should Your Pharmacy Offer Point-of-Care Testing or COVID-19 Vaccinations?
By Scotty Sykes, CPA, CFP, and Bonnie Bond, CPA
The role of community and independent pharmacies may expand even more to the front lines of managing and supporting public health. As the U.S. Centers for Disease Control move closer to announcing a vaccine for the COVID-19 virus, some chain pharmacies are already expressing readiness to expand their existing testing and vaccination services for this effort.
However, the health and political implications of this particular vaccine make it likely that patients will ask their local, trusted pharmacist for guidance and clarity in the coming months.
Does your pharmacy already provide point-of-care testing or vaccination services? Then it may be an easier transition for your business to expand into pandemic-related testing and vaccination. However, this is a decision still largely dependent on the goals of your store(s) and community demand.
To expand and enhance the community pharmacist’s role in the eyes of care providers and the public, supporting public health at this time and in these ways could be a great opportunity. Here are a few tips for making an objective decision about offering these clinical services at your pharmacy.
Weighing Community Demand
As with any business decision, look at your community. Some pharmacies are located near college campuses. They can cater to the urgent demand for blood work or vaccinations within one week of students traveling abroad. Other pharmacies may have a larger population of elderly residents who are concerned about seamless communication with their primary physicians as well as possible vaccine interactions with their other medications.
If you are located in a rural area where residents do not have easy access to a clinic, then point-of-care testing and vaccinations may be a very logical and successful expansion of your services.
Looking at Competitors
If your pharmacy is the only game in town, you will have fewer concerns about competition than if your store competes with a nearby chain pharmacy. You must weigh the competitive advantage you could provide to patients who choose your store over a chain for similar services.
For example, are you proactive with patients who prefer a consultative approach to testing and vaccinations? Do you make the service experience personalized by showing knowledge of their health history, their concerns and possible areas for health improvement?
To justify your commitment and investment, identify the competitive difference that your store can offer that the chain operation can’t do as well or at all. That way, you will be able to communicate that difference and peace of mind to existing and new potential patients.
Calculating Capacity and Expense
Since pharmacists are directly involved in point-of-care testing and vaccinations, assess your team’s capacity for adding or expanding these services. In addition, your store will need private rooms or areas for these services, which may or may not require some store remodeling.
As for inventory, your lab supplies, equipment and vaccines must be on hand when patients want them or it may derail your services. You will also need clear literature and service onboarding to effectively communicate lab results, possible side effects, drug interactions or other patient questions before and after these services.
Dealing With Unknowns
As with any new service, expansion and changes occur within the inventory management, third party reimbursement and accounting processes. More than ever, the accuracy of your perpetual inventory and third party receivable balances are of the utmost importance. These numbers drive the financials of your pharmacy operation’s gross profit and bottom line revenue.
While certain point-of-care testing and vaccinations have precedent in the industry to show average margins, a COVID-19 vaccine is still an unknown as to the bottom line costs and possible reimbursements. It will be vitally important for the accounting and financials to be as accurate as possible, and to have a clear understanding as to how the new expansion of service is operating.
Cash clinical services have been shown to improve pharmacy margins from both a financial standpoint, but also by attracting new patients who prefer a primary location for all of their Rx and wellness needs.
As NCPA CEO Douglas Hoey recently noted in an email to members, it is a great opportunity right now for independent and community pharmacists to demonstrate their value to federal agencies, plan sponsors and their patients by being a resource of accurate, science-based information. Take time to consider how your pharmacy can contribute to these aims in light of your business and personal goals as a professional.
This article was previously published in NCPA’s The Pharmacist Magazine, November 2020. Scotty Sykes and Bonnie Bond are shareholders of Sykes & Company, P.A. Along with a knowledgeable team of advisors and counselors, they help independent and community pharmacies across the U.S. manage industry and business challenges — and thrive. https://staging.sykes-cpa.com/ask-sykes/
You may also be interested in our webinar, Coming out of COVID: How to Boost RX Business and Cash Clinical Services.