February 1, 2021

by Matt Merical

COVID-19 has changed the face of healthcare dramatically. Reports in March 2020 marked the turning point of infectious disease management in the United States. Soon after shutdowns were announced, classes were hosted online, and the economy of the country came to a halt, and the President announced partnership with some of the nation’s largest healthcare organizations for the rollout of coronavirus testing sites. From hospitals to Walmart parking lots and CVS drive-thrus, Americans across the country gained access to testing facilities to confirm positive or negative test results to one of the greatest fears of the American public.

Independent Local Pharmacies Left Behind?

Left behind, however, were many independent pharmacies. Pharmacists, one of the United States most accessible healthcare providers, were authorized by some states and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to order and administer coronavirus testing. Independent pharmacies, however, were typically left without a paddle in the waters of coronavirus testing. Tests were either not available or not prioritized to these locations. While local pharmacies had the chance to partner with other providers, they could not provide the same tests in a financially viable way without some form of payment system and connection to another provider. This left only larger pharmacy chains with the means of providing testing services.

Pharmacies across the United States have been an indispensable resource in helping combat the spread of COVID-19.
On June 29, 2020, the Ohio Department of Medicaid announced new guidance for Ohio pharmacists; they could finally submit diagnostic testing claims for reimbursement in Medicaid beneficiaries. With this change came payment plans directly to pharmacies for this essential service they now have the opportunity to provide. Despite this change, billing has continued to be a difficult road to navigate for most pharmacies.

Local Pharmacies Now Rising to the Occasion

Dr. Thaddeus Franz, Vice Chair of Experiential Programs and Director of Cedar Care Village Pharmacy in Cedarville, Ohio, has navigated the changes in order to be ready to administer the testing kit. Cedar Care Village Pharmacy serves a large rural population covering a number of communities in southwest Ohio. With his expertise and planning, Cedar Care pharmacy has begun testing for students at Cedarville University and the local community. With their acquisition of rapid tests and with so few locations offering this service locally, Cedar Care saw a large uptick in community interest in the tests.

The pharmacy recently passed a significant milestone, reaching 500 tests completed since September. Despite students having gone home for December break, their average tests per day consistently rose until reaching a recent plateau. Tests like these, and their quick results, have been essential to local communities as they deal with the pandemic and facilitate quarantine and isolation practices in conjunction with health authorities. Pharmacies across the United States have been an indispensable resource in helping combat the spread of COVID-19. Between providing access to tests and upcoming access to vaccinations, the work of this practice setting has further emphasized the importance of community pharmacies as they protect their patients and communities.

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Matt Merical is a student pharmacist at the Cedarville University School of Pharmacy. He completed his B.S. in molecular and cellular biology at Cedarville University, focusing research time supporting faculty in signal transduction and antibody medication therapies. His current interests include the advancement of pharmacy practice and collaboration in the healthcare setting for the promotion of patient advocacy and care.

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