Helping Pharmacies Build In-House Testing for Better Patient Care

McKesson’s Lab Strategy helps pharmacies implement testing services and supports them every step of the way.

Read time: 4 minutes

Just a few decades ago, most people only visited a pharmacy when they needed to fill a prescription or stock up on personal care products. But today, consumers are increasingly viewing pharmacies as a trusted destination for healthcare services, from vaccinations to in-store consultations with physicians or nurse practitioners. In fact, a 2022 report from Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health found that most people trust pharmacists to play a greater role in their care.

This trend especially took off during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the concept of visiting a pharmacy for an array of health tests or vaccinations proved invaluable to so many people – and McKesson has been at the forefront in supporting this emerging area.

Even before COVID, some pharmacies had the ability to offer “point-of-care” testing – tests that can be performed near the patient and provide quick, reliable results. McKesson Medical-Surgical (Med-Surg) has long supplied large retail pharmacies that run in-store clinics with the tools and supplies necessary to conduct such testing. But due to growing demand for these services over the past few years, the company has ramped up its efforts in this space, as well as expanded its reach to smaller, independent pharmacies that don’t have the means to set up their own retail-based clinics.

To that end, the business made the decision to remodel the company’s lab support team in light of increasing interest in community-based health clinics and in-pharmacy care. It proved to be a prescient move. Contagion concerns, provider shortages, and the desire for more convenient, on-demand care have all driven consumer interest in pharmacy care.

“At the time we were planning all of this, we didn’t know that COVID was about to hit,” says Chris Day, field vice president, strategic accounts-lab for Med-Surg. “The timing of our decision couldn’t have worked out better, because we were able to swoop in and help our customers who wanted to offer PCR COVID-19 tests during the pandemic.”

Since then, the idea that a pharmacy can be a reliable destination for a variety of lab tests has continued to solidify. Karen McKim, field vice president of strategic accounts for the Lab team, explains that offering in-house lab testing has enabled mutual benefits for patients and pharmacy owners alike.

“Patients can shop for toiletries and pick up their prescriptions while also testing for the flu in one stop, while pharmacy owners have the benefit of getting more customers through their doors,” McKim explains. “At the end of the day, the goal is to create the best experience to serve the needs of the community.”

Laws vary by state, but in many areas, pharmacists practicing at the top of their license are permitted to order and run lab tests for respiratory conditions like strep throat and COVID, as well as tests that pertain to diabetes, heart disease, and infectious disease like HIV. In other regions, the presence of an on-site or consulting physician or nurse practitioner who orders the test is required. In either instance, McKesson is well-positioned to set up testing labs within pharmacies large and small.

How McKesson Approach Enables Pharmacy Success

COVID-19 Test Pharmacy

When it comes to expanding the role of pharmacy-based care, including lab test offerings, there’s a tremendous opportunity and room for growth. Yet for many pharmacies, especially smaller, independently operated ones, such opportunities can be exciting as well as overwhelming. That’s where McKesson’s Lab team comes in.

The team is comprised of specialists who support pharmacies that want to offer lab testing for various conditions. These specialists provide guidance on everything from licensure-related paperwork to lab equipment ordering and connectivity software training. The glue that holds the pieces together and provides personalized strategy advice comes in the form of diagnostic sales consultants like Ronnie Murphy.

“For a lot of smaller pharmacies, COVID testing was the really big intro into testing. Now they want to know, ‘What other tests can I run?’” says Murphy. “It’s all new to them. They know that large pharmacy chains are doing this, but they haven’t received training in running lab tests and they don’t always have a solid understanding of regulations in place.”

The diagnostic sales consultants are prepared to answer basic questions about licensure and billing, and they can connect interested clients with the MedSol® consulting services team, who has more expertise in regulatory requirements.

They also provide information about ordering supplies, including equipment, reagents, and personal protective gear, and connect clients to a Lab Services team member who coordinates specialized training provided by specific lab test vendors.

“My job is all discovery,” Murphy explains. “I gather information and try to create a complete solution based on our pharmacy customers’ needs and goals.”

Many pharmacies that decide to venture into lab testing express interest in other respiratory tests that require a simple nasal or throat swap. Others want to offer urinalysis or blood-based tests. Whatever path they wish to explore, McKesson is poised to guide them.

“Whatever path pharmacies wish to explore, McKesson stands poised to guide them with a complete suite of solutions,” Murphy says. “The single source aspect is what truly makes us stand out.”