Several national pharmacy chains are preparing to roll out testing for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the coming weeks, including Health Mart, Kroger Co, and other chain pharmacies.

The expansion is made possible with the public-private partnership between eTrueNorth, a health care technology company that enables laboratory testing at retail pharmacies, and various national chains. Local pharmacies are essential to expanding testing to rural areas and harder-to-reach populations, according to a press release.

“Americans trust their local pharmacy,” said Coral May, CEO, and president of eTrueNorth, in a statement. “In fact, 95% of the US population lives within 5 miles of a pharmacy.”

Although the process may vary by pharmacy brand, generally patients will visit a website to find testing locations and answer some qualifying questions. If their symptoms meet CDC guidelines, they are then issued a voucher and a scheduled date and time for the test.

“The voucher system manages the pre- and post-test process,” May said in the statement. “Once onsite, individuals self-administer a nasal swab in their vehicles in a ‘drive through’ or similar model—there is no testing in stores.”

The eTrueNorth voucher system was implemented in 2018 for individuals who needed clinical testing and has been utilized to aid in drive-through testing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pharmacists will also play a large role in the process, following the announcement by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that pharmacists can order and administer COVID-19 tests.

“Giving pharmacists the authorization to order and administer COVID-19 tests to their patients means easier access to testing for Americans who need it,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar, JD, in a press release. “Pharmacists play a vital role in delivering convenient access to important public health services and information.”

Kroger plans to expand the drive-through testing model to 50 locations across more than 12 states, and to perform up to 100,000 tests by the end of May, according to a news release.

Health Mart plans to have an appointment-based, curbside testing model, which they plan to offer nationwide with select pharmacies serving low-income areas and vulnerable populations.

REFERENCE
eTrueNorth Enabling Drive-Through COVID-19 Testing with Public-Private Partnership including Walmart, Kroger, Health Mart, & the Department of Health and Human Services [news release]. eTrueNorth; April 29, 2020. https://etruenorth.com/assets/download/eTrueNorth%20COVID-19%20Drive-Through%20Testing%20Press%20Release.pdf. Accessed April 29, 2020.