Beyond New Revenue: The Transformative Potential of At-Home Diagnostics for Retail PharmaciesInsights
June 23, 2023
Growth in at-home diagnostic testing is creating a new profitable category for retail pharmacies and the most forward-thinking pharmacists recognize this as more than a tactical opportunity – they see it as a strategic one. The at-home diagnostics surge presents a significant opportunity for retail pharmacists to do more than just grow opportunistic revenue across the store, it provides pharmacists the chance to offer high value by advising and educating consumers, enhancing relationships, and improving health outcomes, all while improving their own job satisfaction.
At-home testing is already well accepted by consumers given the frequent use of COVID-19 tests. Consumers are now being offered a suite of at-home tests, both the rapid antigen (immediate results) but also at-home collection kits where the test is sent to a lab and results are sent directly to the patient.
Consumers are increasingly savvy about using at-home tests and well aware that getting the right diagnosis is key to getting the right treatment,” said Denise Conway, PharmD. “We are now seeing a range of at-home tests for Covid, flu, sexual health, and more, and we are aware that more tests are coming. As a pharmacist, I can help the patient choose the right test, and – if they test positive – I can often provide a convenient, accurate treatment.
Enhancing the Customer Experience
Pharmacists will play a key role in helping a patient select the right test, and when possible, getting them the right treatment including the correct prescription. While the pharmacist scope of practice differs by state, pharmacists increasingly play a key role in treatment.
Opportunities for pharmacists to deliver superior customer care include:
- Consumer Education: Retail pharmacists can play a crucial role in educating consumers about at-home diagnostic tests, their appropriate use, and interpretation of results. They can provide guidance on selecting the right test, proper sample collection techniques, and understanding the limitations and potential implications of test results.
- Product Selection and Recommendations: With the wide range of at-home diagnostic tests available, retail pharmacists can assist consumers in selecting reliable tests – informed by the latest regulations, clinical performance, and quality standards of different tests.
- Result Interpretation: At-home diagnostic tests may provide consumers with results that require interpretation. Retail pharmacists can help consumers understand their test results, clarify any uncertainties, and provide appropriate guidance on follow-up actions. This personalized support enhances trust and ensures consumers can navigate the testing process effectively.
- Pre- and Post-Test Counseling: Retail pharmacists can offer pre-test counseling, including guidance on test preparation, timing, and any necessary precautions. Additionally, post-test counseling can involve discussing test results, addressing emotional concerns, and providing appropriate recommendations or referrals based on the test outcome. These counseling sessions allow pharmacists to engage with consumers on a deeper level, building trust and ensuring comprehensive care.
- Personalized Health Advice: By incorporating at-home diagnostic tests into their practice, retail pharmacists can provide more personalized health advice to consumers. Test results can inform discussions on medication management, lifestyle modifications, preventive care measures, and appropriate interventions. Such interventions can include symptom management with OTC medications, disease treatments (eg, antivirals as part of test-and-treat protocols) and facilitating medical provider engagement (via telehealth services or the patient’s primary care provider) among others. This individualized approach enhances the value of the pharmacist's role and strengthens the pharmacist-consumer relationship.
At-home diagnostics (with the exception of early pregnancy tests) represent a relatively new category of in-pharmacy services…and such tests have been easily adopted as a product sales opportunity”, said Jeff Lewis, PharmD, VP Business Development and Clinical Services for Profero Team, a leading independent pharmacy consulting firm. “However, the tests haven’t been well-integrated into pharmacies as a service line opportunity – strategically aimed at improving both patient care and business revenue. This is an opportunity that demands the attention of the community pharmacy sector.
Improving the Pharmacist/Employee Experience
Improving the Pharmacist/Employee Experience Meaningful patient interaction and the ability to make a positive impact on patients' health and well-being contribute to job satisfaction in the retail pharmacy. Having the opportunity to provide valuable guidance about diagnostic testing can make a positive impact on consumers' health outcomes and build trust with patients which is highly rewarding. Moreover, opportunities for professional growth, continuing education, and skill development are important for job satisfaction among retail pharmacists. The evolving nature of the pharmacy profession and the integration of new diagnostic testing technologies and services can enhance professional growth and satisfaction among retail pharmacists.
Capitalizing on At-Home Diagnostics Category Growth
Retail pharmacies have several advantages with offering at-home testing products: pharmacists are highly trusted by patients 1, offer convenient locations to purchase tests and provide immediate solutions to treat “positive” patients.
Now, leading pharmacy retailers are working with health plans to stimulate more at-home testing. Walgreens Health recently partnered with a major health plan to increase the use of at-home colorectal screenings. “The pharmacy was also able to increase the rate of colorectal screenings up to 51% in underserved areas due to the support of pharmacists,” said John Driscoll, President U.S. Healthcare and EVP, Walgreens Boots Alliance (Walgreens). “Our pharmacies are providing an invaluable service in helping patients with early identification and health plans lower costs and improve outcomes. In fact, as we continue to invest in automation, our pharmacists will be able to spend more time with patients. We believe pharmacists could be more involved with patients and take on more responsibility in the treatment of patients,” said Driscoll. 2
As at-home testing increases, pharmacy retailers are using category management programs to increase the use and profitability of this category. Doug Field, Chief Revenue Officer of PHASE Scientific Americas, manufacturer of the INDICAID brand of diagnostic tests, sees this as a high growth category. “We are working with pharmacy retailers to educate them on this expanding category and help them increase their sales, and their service to patients. We created a Category Enhancement Program for our retailers - bundling product, merchandising, education, and advisory services - so they can maximize their diagnostic offerings and care services to patients across the store.”
Increasing care services within pharmacies is a priority for both CVS and Walgreens who purchased Oak Street and Village MD respectively. Rosalind Brewer, CEO of Walgreens said, “It was clear to me that traditional retail plus the pharmacy business is a very mature business, and at some point, we’re going to have to have another way to grow revenue.” Smart pharmacies are seeking ways to combine product sales - in new categories such as at-home diagnostic tests - with the services of their trusted pharmacists and physician networks.
Retail pharmacies have a significant opportunity to capitalize on the growth of at-home diagnostic testing, driven by increased access and convenience. The market for at-home diagnostics is projected to surpass USD 8.15 billion by 2030, with retail and online pharmacies expected to capture a significant revenue share. By offering comprehensive testing services, at-home rapid antigen tests and at-home collection kits, leveraging partnerships, and emphasizing convenience, retail pharmacies can enhance patient access, improve customer satisfaction, and drive growth in this expanding market. And, not to be overlooked, they create a chance for their primary competitive advantage – the consultative, caring skills of their pharmacists – to shine.
About the Author
MaryKate Scott is a Principal of The Scott Group, a healthcare strategy consultancy serving health care systems, medical device and pharmaceutical companies as well as major retail pharmacies and convenient care clinic providers. Scott is a former McKinsey & Company Partner and Procter & Gamble marketer. She wrote the original 2006 and 2007 peer reviewed articles on Retail Clinics, published by the California Healthcare Foundation. She was also an adjunct professor at University of Southern California teaching The Business of Healthcare and sits on the board of several health organizations including an FQHC.
1 Lindsey L, Husband A, Steed L, Walton R, Todd A. Helpful advice and hidden expertise: pharmacy users’ experiences of community pharmacy accessibility. J. Public Health Oxf. 2017;39:609–15. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]