“Conducting yearly health screenings for children in schools encompasses a comprehensive set of assessments, including height, weight, blood pressure, and BMI measurements, along with thorough eye examinations, dental evaluations, and ENT (ear, nose, and throat) checks. This routine health screening is a pivotal strategy for timely identification and intervention. By catching potential concerns early on, these screenings play a pivotal role in averting potential long-term issues that could manifest later in their lives.”
Early Detection and Prevention
Individual health is determined by many factors other than medical conditions alone. Understanding and addressing social determinants of health (SDOH), which include those factors that shape people’s birth, living arrangements, work experiences, aging processes, and outcomes, may help address barriers to care while increasing outcomes, according to research published in the Journal of American Pharmacists Association.
Pharmacy staff can use their professional knowledge and training to screen for SDOH-related health concerns in patients, which is especially applicable when working in community pharmacies that often meet with customers directly.
Researchers from the University of Buffalo conducted an SDOH screening model in 12 community pharmacies that offered it and were willing to offer it as part of their services. Through various measures to gauge acceptability, researchers found that pharmacist-led screening for various medical conditions and risk factors was widely accepted among patients, pharmacists, HCPs, and others who participated. Unfortunately, no standardized psychometrically sound measure of acceptability could be identified – making comparing findings difficult.
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Identifying At-Risk Individuals
Community pharmacies provide the ideal setting for screening for health issues, including high cholesterol, blood pressure and bone density issues, depression, and tobacco use. Community pharmacies can also offer educational materials and advise patients to visit their physician for appropriate follow-up treatment – such as medication or counselling services.
Pharmacists can identify individuals who qualify for screenings related to the social determinants of health (SDOH), such as substance abuse, mental illness, or lack of affordable healthcare coverage, then refer them for additional help, including housing assistance or a ride to visit doctors/other health services as well as assistance obtaining prescriptions.
Community pharmacies already work closely with their patients to address certain aspects of these issues; however, formalizing and standardizing this screening could make it more widespread, says co-principal investigator Christopher Daly, PharmD, clinical assistant professor of pharmacy practice at UB School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. According to Daly, screening programs must be promoted using banners, brochures, or posters handed out during store visits or as samples at screening events.
Providing Education and Referrals
Community pharmacists possess the expertise to offer screenings and education related to social determinants of health (SDOH), which can improve patient outcomes while decreasing healthcare costs. As health educators, community pharmacies offer screenings such as folic acid education, tobacco cessation programs, osteoporosis screenings, and HIV testing that have all proven successful interventions within their pharmacy locations.
Community pharmacists can identify patients who could benefit from SDOH screening and refer them directly to their primary care provider for follow-up. Some community pharmacies already work closely with patients to help overcome SDOH barriers by providing home delivery services or endorsing cost-effective medications that can lower medication affordability.
Referrals for hospitalized patients can be sent using the NHS Connecting for Health system, designed to integrate seamlessly with community pharmacy systems and notify community pharmacists as soon as their patient has been referred; this will trigger them to log in and view it immediately.
Increasing Role of Pharmacists
Community pharmacists are among the most accessible healthcare professionals and have become more engaged in offering preventive services, including screening for social determinants of health (SDOH).1
Pharmacists can also screen for medications related to SDOH, such as those that cause or worsen mental illness. Since community pharmacists see all the medications their patients take, they can identify those that could contribute to mental illness and suggest changes to regimens if necessary.
Recent research from the University of Buffalo examined two SDOH screening models across ten community pharmacies and found that 6 out of every 10 of 76 screened experienced some form of social challenge, with affordability being among the primary ones. As this can directly affect health outcomes, researchers suggest community pharmacies serve as primary points of contact for screening services to maximize uptake through posters in-store or by providing information to patients while they pick up prescriptions or over-the-counter medicines.
The Range of Health Screening Services
Discuss the various types of health screening services offered in community pharmacies:
- Blood pressure monitoring
- Blood glucose testing
- Cholesterol testing
- BMI calculation
- Smoking cessation support
- Immunization clinics
- Bone density testing
- Medication reviews
- Cardiovascular risk assessment
- Mental health screenings
Advantages for the Public
Explore the benefits of health screening services for the general public:
- Convenience and accessibility
- Early detection of health issues
- Cost-effectiveness compared to hospital-based screenings
- Increased awareness of personal health
- Tailored health advice from pharmacists
Empowering Pharmacists as Healthcare Providers
The expanding role of pharmacists in public health:
- Specialized training for offering screening services
- Enhancing pharmacists’ professional status
- Strengthening the pharmacist-patient relationship
Impact on Public Health
Health screening services contribute to overall public health:
- Reducing the burden on hospitals and clinics
- Preventing complications and hospitalizations
- Educating the public about healthy lifestyles
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Challenges and Considerations
Address potential challenges and considerations associated with health screening services in community pharmacies:
- Ensuring the accuracy and reliability of test results
- Adhering to privacy and confidentiality standards
- Regulatory guidelines and quality control
How to Make the Most of Health Screening Services
Provide tips for individuals to maximize the benefits of these services:
- Regular participation in screenings
- Following up on abnormal results with healthcare providers
- Incorporating screening results into overall health plans