Patients who fear they have strep throat or flu may obtain free, rapid tests for the next few months through a research project involving 60 sites in three states, including Omaha and Papillion Hy-Vee Supermarkets.
The rapid-diagnosis tests usually are available only in a medical setting.
Don Klepser, an assistant professor in the University of Nebraska Medical Center's College of Pharmacy, said the project will examine the degree to which providing the service fits into the store pharmacists' work flow. It will also examine how patients fare as a result of the service.
Klepser suggested the project will demonstrate pharmacists' ability to take on more clinical tasks at a time when more people who are newly insured through Obamacare put additional demands on primary care doctors' time.
The project will allow customers to expedite the diagnostic and treatment process, Klepser said. The timing of treatment is the key factor in stopping the flu, said Dr. Alan Jensen, the prescribing physician for the Hy-Vee sites.
People must be 19 or older and show symptoms of flu or strep throat. They will receive a private consultation, pharmacists will swab the patients' throats or noses, and a machine will give a positive or negative finding. It will take roughly 10 minutes for the technology to produce a yes or no result, said Tally Mertes, store director at the Hy-Vee at 180th and Pacific Streets.
Ferris State University in Michigan and some stores in Michigan and Minnesota also are involved in the project. Klepser's brother, Michael, is on the Ferris State pharmacy faculty. The brothers are collaborating on the project.
“I haven't had to have our mom settle any disputes yet,” Don Klepser said.
The project is being funded by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores Foundation.
Klepser said that while the rapid test is free, medications dispensed afterward must be paid for by the patient and his or her insurance.
Hy-Vee pharmacists have undergone certification provided by UNMC and Ferris State to participate.
At Hy-Vee stores where Alegent Creighton clinics exist, the free testing will be offered only during hours when those clinics aren't open, Klepser said.
The flu tests will be available through late spring and the strep tests through late summer.