The Results: COVID-19 Testing and Accessibility of Care
By now, many of us know someone who has undergone COVID-19 testing. Perhaps we have been subject to specimen collection ourselves. The increase in testing, in part supported by the frontline efforts of community pharmacists, is an important step to mitigating the spread of coronavirus. Though critical to understanding the true magnitude and scope of the pandemic, the increase in testing has also presented operational challenges for many states, including the accessibility of testing and turnaround time for results.
To understand these challenges more, and to demonstrate the integral role community pharmacists play within COVID-19 mitigation and public health, PrescribeWellness has conducted unique research to define the testing landscape and to provide a clearer picture on the accessibility of care in communities throughout the nation.
Policy in practice
Up to this point, the CDC has left the policy and testing process in the hands of state officials, with a majority of the decisions being made at the county level. Policy enforcement and prioritization of test subjects fall under the jurisdiction of city and county governments. For example, Philadelphia does not recommend testing for an individual in direct contact with another symptomatic individual. Rather, they recommend that individuals conduct a 14-day quarantine to see if symptoms develop. Conversely, New York offers testing to any concerned individual, or even to those who are potentially traveling and want to be proactive.
Counties can then elect to share their data on a city, or county-only, level. While counties must report their daily rate of diagnoses and deaths, further reporting is left to their discretion.
Leveling the playing field
COVID-19 testing is available at no charge in all large metropolitan cities across the U.S., however, the amount of time in which it takes for a test to be processed, and results delivered, differs greatly from city to city. The main driver behind the discrepancy in turnaround time is the level of accessibility of testing for patients.
To analyze further, let’s classify accessibility into three categories: easy, medium, and difficult.
‘Easy’ is when almost any individual who wishes to get tested can receive access in approximately one day. A facility rated as ‘medium’ allows individuals to get tested only if they have had limited exposure to the disease, or if they qualify as essential workers. Lastly, ‘difficult’ requires individuals to first consult with a medical professional, and can only receive authorization if extreme or mild symptoms are exhibited after a 14 day period.
Below are the research results for the top 10 largest U.S. cities:
|City||Test Accessibility||Turnaround Time|
|New York, NY||Easy||12-48 Hours|
|Los Angeles, CA||Easy||12-24 Hours|
|Chicago, IL||Easy||48-72 Hours|
|Houston, TX||Easy||24-48 Hours|
|Philadelphia, PA||Difficult||48 Hours|
|Phoenix, AZ||Medium||48-72 Hours|
|San Antonio, TX||Medium||96- 144 Hours|
|San Diego, CA||Easy||24-72 Hours|
|Dallas, Texas||Medium||96-144 Hours|
|San Jose, CA||Easy||48-96 Hours|
PrescribeWellness research found that most cities have a higher demand for testing, which is unsurprising given their concentrated populations. Further, because of the higher risk of transmission, cities not only tend to have faster responsiveness, but their average turnaround time is much shorter (results could be available within a few hours of testing administration). This is due to the higher volume of testing facilities, which provides greater access. In fact, the research shows a positive correlation between turnaround time and the number of test sites available in a certain geographic region.
Conversely, patients in residential and rural areas have far less access to testing, and in fact, often have to make a reservation rather than simply walking in to get tested. Also, results may take multiple days to be delivered (up to five days in some circumstances), which makes the practice of contact tracing difficult and evasive.
Community pharmacists: critical providers
Empowering pharmacies and pharmacists to serve communities by administering COVID-19 testing is critical to maintaining public health. Testing helps investigators characterize the prevalence, transmission, and contagiousness of the disease, all of which are important factors in the larger public health picture with respect to the degree of intervention needed to slow the virus’ spread. 1
Accessible testing allows health experts to understand where and how to focus mitigation efforts. Quick identification of positive cases leads to immediate treatment and isolation of those infected, substantially slowing the spread of the disease. Whenever a positive COVID-19 diagnosis is confirmed, local health departments can work with patients to identify those who may have come into contact with an infected person, so they can be monitored and quickly treated if needed.
Following the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ (HHS) recent declaration that allowed pharmacists to conduct COVID-19 testing, PrescribeWellness could not be more proud of how pharmacies have responded to facilitate COVID-19 testing in communities across America. Now, the HHS has even more good news for pharmacists.
HHS guidance issued on May 19, 2020, overrides all state and local rules preventing pharmacists from administering COVID-19 diagnostic tests. This announcement paves the way for pharmacists nationwide to administer COVID-19 tests, further bolstering the role pharmacy plays in increasing access to health and fulfilling another critical step towards curbing the COVID-19 pandemic. The National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) praised the guidance, shining a light on the “21,000 independent pharmacists across the country… [who] can now make an even bigger contribution to the war against COVID-19.” 2
PrescribeWellness & COVID-19 testing
PrescribeWellness remains committed to serving our community pharmacy partners during this critical time by providing pertinent information and resources that are conducive to more effective care. That is why we are proud to offer our frontline community providers the opportunity to secure authorized and reliable testing kits through our online purchase form. Our dedicated team members are standing by to provide you support throughout the entire testing process, such as facilitating the transportation of specimens for lab processing.
We have also created an in-depth webinar series designed to provide pharmacists and staff members with the latest information surrounding COVID-19. This series is brought to you in three parts by our expert clinical PrescribeWellness staff. The webinar covers an array of important topics such as the operationalization of a testing clinic within community pharmacy, prevalent scams, and fraud, as well as emerging medications and treatments.
For more information on how PrescribeWellness can support your community pharmacy during the developing pandemic, including the securing of testing opportunities, contact us today through the form below.