Healthcare costs are rising in the United States on account of a growing number of seniors, thus putting a strain on the healthcare system and social security services. Since 2020, these services have been spending more than they have been receiving. According to Forbes, if the nation stays on its current trajectory, by the late 2030s, social security will no longer be able to provide the same benefits or maintain its current expenditures due to insufficient funds.
These trends have led to the search for innovative and integrated approaches, such as point of care testing. There has also been an emphasis on patient-centered care, which is characterized by greater access to care, reduced consultations, and fewer hospital admissions. The goal of such care is to increase patient satisfaction, improve clinical management through eMAR software systems, and reduce medical costs.
Another development is point of care pharmacy and its variety of services. Propelled by COVID-19, patients expect fast and convenient diagnostic test results. Furthermore, modern standards call for more flexibility in point of care testing. Enter point of care pharmacy, which can now administer, diagnose, and prescribe medication for minor illnesses, bypassing traditional laboratory testing to reduce time delays.
Point of care pharmacy services is possible because of technological advancements and the increasing use of portable and easy-to-use devices compatible with care plan software. These devices offer more reliable and efficient data during diagnostic testing. The point of care test results is accessed almost immediately, giving a real-time diagnosis, resulting in swift, clinical decision-making when a medical problem occurs.
When patients receive test results that are a cause of concern, they are then referred for additional testing. This is why a point of care pharmacy must have compatible eMAR software in place, so the information is shared more easily across different healthcare providers following the initial diagnosis.
Point of Care Testing vs Laboratory Testing
The COVID-19 pandemic has had many negative consequences on global healthcare services. However, one positive element has been that it forced healthcare providers and technology manufacturers to develop equipment that offers immediate, real-time data, leading to the development of mass testing and prompt test results. In the context of nursing homes, point of care software is used to keep track of ADLs, testing, fluid restrictions, fall interventions, resident information, and more.
Over the last two years, there has been a significant shift from laboratory testing to point of care testing. Below, we highlight the differences between the point of care testing vs laboratory testing to distinguish the advantages and disadvantages of each testing method.
Laboratory testing, the traditional method of testing, starts with a physician taking a patient sample and then sending the sample to a central laboratory to be processed by a lab technician. The turnaround time for the test results differs depending on the complexity of the test. However, it is usual for test results to be returned within one or two days along with a report. Afterward, the physician will then share the results with the patient.
The whole process typically takes up to one week from the patient providing the sample to receiving the results. The equipment used in laboratory testing is complex and requires a highly trained technician who can follow analytical procedures to attain the pre-analytical and post-analytical data. For this reason, not only does it take longer to conduct laboratory testing, but it is also more expensive because of the labor needed, quality measures, and training to produce accurate test results.
While the cost, procedures, results, and reports of laboratory testing require more time within a broader context for clinical operations, when a larger volume of testing is conducted, there is a lower cost-per-unit due to economies of scale.
Point of Care Testing
Point of care testing, meanwhile, is conducted outside of a laboratory environment. Studies show that the key driver for point of care testing is the delay in clinical decision-making when samples are sent to the laboratory.
The testing equipment for point of care testing is simple, as it uses compact, single-use, consumable cartridges that test for a specific antibody. The point of care testing process requires little training. Therefore, testing can be conducted as a point of care pharmacy service or be administered by the patient. Examples of a common point of care test include COVID-19 lateral flow tests or protein-treated pregnancy tests with saliva.
Even though the point of care testing procedure is simple, the results are accurately used to identify and manage chronic illnesses, infections, and diseases. They are accessible in hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies, making them highly convenient.
Each test is significantly lower than a laboratory test on a cost basis due to the limited equipment and labor. Arguably, the most significant advantage of point of care testing is the rapid turnaround time to receive results, which can streamline workflow by detecting new symptoms in real-time. Thus, physicians can follow up and treat the patient within minutes of receiving the results.
Consequently, when a patient’s medical condition is identified and treated, this reduces the patient’s length of stay in a facility due to the early diagnosis. There is also a lower readmittance rate because physicians can monitor and perform more frequent testing, thus being discharged more safely.
Of course, similar to laboratory testing, a point of care pharmacy needs to capture and share the patient’s results with healthcare providers so that the relevant data is accessible via the eMAR software. The most advanced point of care software provides visual cues for what has and has not been completed or documented. It also gives nurses and CNAs alerts and warning pop-ups for urgent tasks.
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Why Integrate Point of Care Testing Pharmacy?
Even though there has been some progress to integrating point of care testing pharmacy services, it is still a relatively new concept. Most patients are accustomed to collecting prescriptions from offsite pharmacies. Therefore, a point of care testing pharmacy is an alien concept that is gradually becoming more popular.
A pharmacy that integrates point of care services has many advantages that set it apart from other pharmacies. Below, we will discuss six benefits of integrating point of care pharmacy services.
- Faster Access to Medication – Consumer expectations have been the driving force behind immediate access to services, whether in catering, retail, or healthcare. Patients have become accustomed to receiving access to their prescriptions at the point of care pharmacy almost as soon as it is prescribed. Such quick access to prescriptions makes point of care testing vs laboratory testing an easier decision to make.
- Good First Impressions Matter – When pharmacies integrate their point of care pharmacy services, it is more likely that the patient will have a pleasant and hassle-free experience, increasing the chances that he or she will return for medication refills.
- Additional Supplementary Income – By integrating point of care pharmacy services, pharmacies can make an additional supplementary income that requires little upkeep. Some standalone pharmacy kiosks provide a stable revenue, as they are self-serviced, licensed machines governed by state pharmacy board regulations for dispensing prescriptions, thus requiring low maintenance and posing little risk to the pharmacy.
- Improved Patient Adherence – While patients collect their prescriptions, it is not guaranteed the patient will follow the physician’s exact dosage guidelines and treatment advice. Point of care pharmacy makes that more likely; studies show that patients with access to an online patient portal have better medication adherence because the information is more accessible via the portal.
- Enhanced Doctor-Patient Relationships – It is essential for point of care pharmacies to take a patient-centered approach if they have an on-site physician. When a physician has a better understanding of their patient’s experience, they can make more informed decisions with the patient’s perspective in mind. Ultimately, this will lead to immediate and accurate prescriptions, thus improving patient outcomes and satisfaction.
- Time Effective Solutions – It is relatively common to hear patients complain about long waiting times. However, integrating point of care testing guidelines into the pharmacy’s services will reduce patient waiting times by pre-packing prescriptions and speeding up the administering of medication.
The Future of Point of Care Pharmacy
It is becoming more common for pharmacies to provide various point of care testing services such as testing for diabetes, cholesterol, COVID, and infectious diseases, like hepatitis and HIV. In long term care, meanwhile, point of care software is used to track ADLs, fluid restrictions, fall interventions, and more.
The convenience of a point of care pharmacy that can test, diagnose, and prescribe medication almost immediately is a growing service that more people want. Point of care testing offers efficient services within the community. Point of care pharmacies are becoming the norm on account of a shift in perception and a trend among millennials, who prefer to visit local pharmacies rather than seeing a physician.
Healthcare providers, then, must be quick to adapt. Studies show that for a community-based point of care pharmacy to succeed, it must utilize its resources by partnering with local physicians. It must also select a variety of meaningful point of care tests that meet the needs of the local demographics while analyzing its general finances (accounts and billing), workflow, and marketing strategies to provide more data-driven and personalized care.
As the role of pharmacies has shifted to include more supportive care, we are seeing a rise in the role of point of care pharmacies in improving public health with disease self-care, medication monitoring, patient education, and vaccinations. Of course, a qualified expert must be on hand. Studies show that, while a pharmacist is particularly well-positioned to manage and interpret point of care testing, he or she must undertake further training to enable a smooth transition and continuing effectiveness to meet their responsibilities.