Expanding the health care practice scope of its pharmacists, The Kroger Co. has begun providing rapid testing for strep throat and flu at pharmacies in Michigan and Idaho.
Kroger Health said this week that 104 pharmacies in Michigan and 15 pharmacies in Idaho, as well as The Little Clinic locations in those states, are now offering the service to customers on a walk-in basis. About 250 Kroger Health pharmacists received special training for performing the strep throat and flu tests, according to the company.
In the tests, pharmacists evaluate patients exhibiting symptoms of a sore throat or flu-like illness, check their medical history and conduct an examination. Based on that exam, a nasal or throat swab collection may be performed for a rapid diagnostic test screening for influenza or Streptococcus bacteria.
If the test result is positive for flu or strep throat, pharmacists can prescribe and supply the appropriate treatment during the same visit, which Kroger Health noted can decrease the length, severity and spread of illness.
"We've worked very hard over the past few years to simplify health care, and make it more accessible to people," Kroger Health President Colleen Lindholz said in a statement. "We know that people need more affordable and convenient ways to ensure their families stay healthy, and this program in Michigan and Idaho is a new way we can help. Whenever we can help people live healthier lives, we're going to go above and beyond to make that happen."
Overall, Kroger fields 22,000 health practitioners, ranging from pharmacists and nurse practitioners to dietitians and technicians. A core mission is to combine health, wellness and nutrition into solutions — beyond prescribing medications — that promote customer well-being, including on an emotional and personal level, the company said. To that end, Kroger provides health care access through more than 2,000 pharmacies and 200 clinics in 35 states, which serve more than 14 million customers.
“Our pharmacists practice at the top of their licenses. That enables them to provide a host of services that most people wouldn't expect — but would definitely appreciate — from a community pharmacy,” according to Jim Kirby, senior director of Kroger health services for Kroger Health. "Customers, who may or may not have a primary care physician, can stop by our pharmacy for testing and consultations while they are doing their grocery shopping. That bit of ease goes a long way when you aren’t feeling well.”
Kroger Health also is embracing the notion of “food as medicine” to foster preventive care among consumers. The company said yesterday it has launched a food prescription pilot in which health professionals make dietary recommendations to improve outcomes for certain disease states and health conditions.
Under the food prescription program, primary care doctors are invited to refer patients to Kroger Health experts for personal nutrition counseling and food suggestions. Customers then can fill these “food prescriptions” at Kroger stores in selected markets, where they also can receive support from Kroger Health’s nutrition team.
“Overall self-care — including preventive, emotional, cognitive and physical health — is top-of-mind for consumers,” Cincinnati-based Kroger stated in announcing the food prescription pilot. “As individuals of all ages are increasingly customizing their lifestyles and food choices to achieve health and wellness goals, new solutions and products will continue to be added to grocery shelves that positively impact day-to-day energy, mood and health.”
Other expanded services announced by Kroger Health over the past year include pharmacist prescribing of hormonal contraceptives in seven states (California, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Washington); a pharmacy and clinical care collaboration with Tennessee’s Ascension Saint Thomas Health network; a pilot of Myriad Genetics' GeneSight pharmacogenomic test with Kroger Prescription Plan members at nearly 500 Kroger pharmacies in five states; and a rollout of PTS Diagnostics CardioChek Plus analyzers to Kroger Health locations nationwide for point-of-care blood testing to help identify people at risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes.
Kroger also has partnered with the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) Foundation to help expand access to the CDC-recognized National Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), which promotes evidence-based lifestyle changes to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes in adults with prediabetes.