More than a dozen grocery store pharmacies in the Omaha area are among only 60 in the nation taking part in a new study of what’s billed as rapid-diagnostic tests for the flu and strep throat.
The tests are being offered at the 14 Hy-Vees in Omaha and Papillion.
Tally Mertes, one of the Omaha Hy-Vee store directors, says their pharmacists have had special training to administer the tests.
“The procedure actually is as simple as either a swab to your nose or a swab to your throat,” Mertes says. “They will process that swab through a machine and we will have the results in 10 to 20 minutes.”
If the test comes back positive, the pharmacist will be able to fill prescriptions to treat the identified illnesses, under strict protocol set by prescribing physicians.
She says the goal is not to cut doctors’ offices and clinics out of the loop, but rather to offer them a helping hand, especially when they’re overcrowded during flu season.
“What we want to do is just be a partner with our doctors’ offices and maybe take some of the pressure or overflow,” Mertes says. “Some of the easier diagnoses that we can help provide and then you can use your physician for some of the more complex or complicated diagnoses.”
The tests are part of a research study conducted by the University of Nebraska Medical Center and Ferris State University in Michigan. The 60 sites involved include the 14 Omaha area stores and other stores in Michigan and Minnesota.
The rapid-diagnosis flu tests will be offered through April while the strep tests will be available through August. Mertes notes, customers will like the price.
“Through the study, there is actually no cost to the patient,” Mertes says. “We do have a voucher you can receive in our stores that will cover the cost of the test. In the future, the cost would be around $75 to the patient.”
Customer convenience is the key, she says, as this process will allow people to get an expedited diagnosis and treatment in one location, without having to wait to see their primary care physician. Participants must be at least 19 years old and have symptoms consistent with influenza or strep.