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BLOG POST: Pharmacists in California demonstrate that community pharmacies are viable locations for HCV screening & linkage to care

Pharmacists performing hepatitis C antibody point-of-care screening in a community pharmacy: A pilot project

Authors: Betty J.Dong, MariaLopez, Jennifer Cocohoba

Objectives: To describe the first community pharmacy–based hepatitis C antibody (HCV-Ab) point-of-care (POC) screening program and its outcomes in California.

Setting: Community pharmacy.

Practice description: Community pharmacists perform HCV-Ab POC testing, counsel patients about HCV transmission and prevention, and provide linkage to care.

Practice innovation: Pharmacists implement an HCV-Ab POC screening program in collaboration with the local public health department.

Evaluation: Descriptive data of the demographics of the persons receiving HCV-Ab POC screening and qualitative assessment of the attitudes and knowledge of the trained pharmacists involved in its implementation.

Results: During the 3-month pilot, 6 community pharmacists performed 83 HCV-Ab rapid POC tests with 1 positive result (1.2%). Risk factors for the positive result included injection drug use, crack cocaine or methamphetamine use, and being in the high-risk birth cohort. Although some expressed reservations, pharmacists attested to the feasibility of incorporating HCV screening into their routine pharmacy work. Two major barriers identified by pharmacists for implementing HCV screening included getting non-pharmacy customers into the pharmacy for testing and balancing the time required to review test results within the normal pharmacy workflow.

Conclusion: This pilot demonstrated that trained and motivated community pharmacists in partnership with the Department of Public Health could perform needed rapid HCV-Ab POC screening for potentially high-risk patients not currently in care. Community pharmacies are viable locations for screening and linkage to care owing to their easy access to knowledgeable pharmacists and accessible locations.