Pathologists and clinical laboratory managers take note: pharmacies and retail stores are offering medical laboratory testing services that allow patients to take yet another test at home
Clinical laboratory testing performed at home has long been predicted as a natural progression of rapid medical clinics and the growth of in-home testing. Now comes news that Walgreens (NYSE:WAG) is launching a testing service for diabetes patients that will let patients perform blood glucose testing, and blood pressure monitoring at home.
Walgreens is engaging Infopia America of Titusville, Florida, and SmartDiabetes ProActive Health Solutions, to introduce its new product into 284 Walgreens drug stores in central and northeast Florida. The product, called SmartDiabetes, combines a blood glucose monitor and blood pressure monitor in one device. It can transmit patients’ results to a secure server for review by a physician or other provider. Walgreens expects that the SmartDiabetes service will help pharmacists, physicians, and other providers to coordinate the care of patients who have diabetes more effectively than they can do so now.
For pathologists and medical laboratory managers, this announcement confirms one of the predictions made by Dark Daily and others years ago that the acceptance of “minute clinic/rapid clinic” services in pharmacies and other retail stores, such as Walmart and Target, would open the door for more complex medical laboratory testing services to be done in a variety of settings, including retail sites and patients’ homes. Introduction of the SmartDiabetes product is an attempt by Walgreens to build a closer relationship with diabetes patients by offering them a way to do blood glucose testing and blood pressure monitoring at home. Infopia America refers to the service as the Remote Home Companion.
Electronic transmission of a patient’s results to physicians and other provides on that patient’s care team shows how more clinical data will move seamlessly across different care settings. By the way, Infopia America says its product complies with federal privacy rules under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996.
Will Pathologists See Other Medical Lab Tests Move Out of the Lab?
Infopia America’s CEO is Bryan Sowards. He explained that his company seeks to improve testing compliance by diabetes patients. It also wants to enhance patient care through increased communication using what Infopia calls “result-sharing technology.” “We believe the new affordable SmartDiabetes product line will allow persons with diabetes a way to proactively manage their condition with their healthcare team for better outcomes,” he said.
Walgreens has trained its pharmacists and store managers on how the SmartDiabetes line can improve care for patients with diabetes. The products are displayed next to the pharmacy.
“We are extremely excited about the impact the SmartDiabetes program will have in creating a stronger consultative relationship between our pharmacists, customers, and their healthcare team,” said Marlin Hutchens, Regional Vice President for Walgreens Stores. “The SmartDiabetes program takes patient care to the next level, and we strongly believe everyone benefits from that.”
The nation’s largest drugstore chain, Walgreens, had sales of $67 billion last year and operates 7,689 drugstores in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.
Clinical Laboratories Are Seeing a 2008 Prediction Come True
It was in 2008, when Dark Daily predicted that as companies began to understand the opportunity to provide medical services in retail settings, they would begin to consider how to offer more in-home tests and provide an ever-expanded menu of medical laboratory tests. (See Dark Daily, “Walmart Developing Telemedicine Clinics in Selected Stores,” September 15, 2008.)
Clinical laboratory managers and pathologists watching the adoption of healthcare services by pharmacies and other retail stores and the growth of in-home testing should recognize that the collaboration between Walgreens and Infopia America not only includes the collection of health data directly from the patient, but also involves the electronic transmission—in real time—of the patient’s blood glucose test results and blood pressure readings to physicians and other members of the care team.
This capability is a reminder to medical laboratory professionals that their clinical laboratories and pathology groups should have their own strategy for the seamless transmission of lab test data. Dark Daily has pointed out that more physicians and nurses want to access patient data using smartphones, iPads, and similar hand-held devices. All clinical laboratories should be ready to meet this demand by providers.