Pharmacists to Diagnose and Treat the Sick, Relieving Other Healthcare Professionals | Local News

There was nothing unusual this week about Fran Krug buying antibiotics from her pharmacy. Hundreds of people do the same every day in Citrus County for various ailments.

But to get a prescription for a urinary tract infection, Krug, 63, didn’t have to walk into her doctor’s office or schedule a teleconference days before with a nurse or physician assistant.

Instead, the retired Connecticut receptionist sat down with her pharmacist, Ken Heimann, in a private B&W Rexall Drugs exam room, and explained her symptoms.

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Heimann, in his white coat, performed a routine examination, diagnosed her and recommended an antibiotic.

“Give me five or 10 minutes,” he said as he left the exam room to find out when his prescription would be ready.

Minutes and steps later, Krug was picking up her prescription and heading home from the pharmacy at 102 E. Highland Boulevard in Inverness.

Krug could have tried to make an appointment with her doctor, but nothing said that he could have forced her to come see him. And then there’s the extra trip to the pharmacy to pick up the medications she needed.

“It’s very convenient to come here. That’s how it should be,” Krug told the Chronicle. ” I highly recommend it. »

Several states, including Florida, have programs that now allow pharmacists to perform basic diagnostics and write and fill prescriptions. These diagnoses include illnesses such as urinary tract infections, influenza, COVID-19, routine lung infections, and other types of infections. Pharmacists can also perform laboratory tests if they have the necessary equipment.

Florida requires pharmacists to complete an additional 20 hour course to perform the diagnostic service, but nothing more.

Heimann is the only pharmacist in Citrus County to take the state-run course in October and can now diagnose such illnesses.

At least 15 states allow pharmacists to perform point-of-care testing and determine appropriate treatment.

Heimann said the coronavirus had accelerated an existing trend that had already taken hold: pharmacists able to diagnose and treat basic illnesses.

On the business side, Heimann said independent pharmacies often offer unrelated services under the same roof, such as meals through dinners, ice cream and lunch counters, and even sales of appliances including televisions. and refrigerators.

Heimann’s pharmacy includes a post office, and mail-order prescriptions account for about 3% of its business.

Heiman said the pandemic has forced the healthcare system’s hand and pushed the pharmaceutical industry further down its current trajectory.

Chain pharmacies were already moving in the direction of diagnostics.

Walgreens and CVS hired nurses and medical assistants to diagnose and treat customers. They were also performing COVID-19 tests and administering vaccines.

When the pandemic hit hardest, traditional prescriptions were down and doctors, hospitals and labs were overwhelmed with the sick, not only patients with COVID-19 but also those with common illnesses such as flu and infections.

The advancement of pharmacists to being allowed to diagnose simple problems was the logical next step and helped relieve some of the pressure on other areas of health care, Heimann said.

Additionally, pharmacists could also purchase small, compact machines to perform basic blood tests in pharmacies and measure things like cholesterol, glucose, and glycerides.

It was a far cry from the days when many Rexall pharmacies sold sodas and ice cream, but Heimann said the new services help fill out stores and serve as early disease detection and treatment.

“I think they saw the role that pharmacists could play,” he said. “We were no longer in a turf battle with other frontline professionals (when coronavirus cases were filling doctors’ offices and emergency departments).”

Doctors and hospitals were telling pharmacists, “Let me take care of my seriously ill patients and you take care of them,” Heimann told the Chronicle.

The practice has also allowed people without health insurance or a primary care doctor to have access to basic medical treatment, he said.

“These (pharmacists) skill sets have been underutilized,” he said.

People also watched as pharmacists and pharmacy technicians bridged the gap by getting people vaccinated.

More than 200 million doses have been administered and reported by retail pharmacies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention after the federal government eased regulatory restrictions during the crisis.

Additionally, proponents of pharmacists providing health care pointed out that most doctors do not practice in rural areas.

A study by the United States Department of Agriculture showed that only 10% of doctors work in rural areas. Meanwhile, about 70% of independent pharmacists already work in rural areas of fewer than 50,000 people, according to a 2020 publication from the National Community Pharmacists Association.

What hasn’t been caught up is how to pay for reviews.

Health insurance will not pay for the work of the pharmacist, but for the medicine.

Either way, diagnosis by pharmacists is less expensive than seeing a doctor and paying cash, he said.

But Heimann thinks it’s only a matter of time before health insurance companies come on board and foot the bill, because they’ll see it’s cheaper.

Meanwhile, Krug said she was pleased with the friendly care she receives from Heimann and his staff.

“You can bet I’ll keep coming here,” she said. “It’s the solution, really for everyone.”

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