Experts Discuss Point-of-Care Testing, Immunizations in Pharmacies Across the World

In a panel, pharmacy technicians across the world discuss what immunizations and point-of-care testing looks like in United States, Portugal, and the United Kingdom.

Q: What will the role of technicians be in point of care testing and immunizations?

João José Joaquim: Here in Portugal, we do the kind of the point, more or less, in a specific way for pharmacy technicians. Two years ago, we start with that task. And for immunization, you need the training, specific training, for immunization for vaccination. It's also something new for us. We are looking also for the certification of this competence, and you have to perform one quantity of acts every 3 years, or you have to do the training again. It's something that we are looking with great expectations for the pharmacy, especially in community. The preparation of vaccines, namely COVID, it was learnt in hospital by pharmacy technicians when we start to immunize, our professionals, our health professionals. It's something that we are looking for, especially in community pharmacies.

Samantha Quaye: I think the same here, so community pharmacies, but also, we have many pharmacy teams now working in primary care who in general practice, in-doctor surgeries. They will have extra training to do cholesterol testing some blood glucose testing, taking people's blood pressure, so in terms of that kind of points-of-care testing, and pharmacy technicians are already undertaking some of those roles. There were some technicalities in terms of the funding for the services for community pharmacy, whereby it didn't make sense pharmacy technician to do it, but that is changing. I think largely that's been enabled by the pandemic and kind of moving things along. I think we'll see pharmacy technician doing the point-of-care testing more and more because we're ideally placed to be a kind of front facing and seeing people as they come into the pharmacies or into the GP surgeries to clinics.

The same would be said for immunization. We've already talked about COVID-19 immunizations, but pharmacy technicians had been involved in flu vaccinations as well for a long time within the hospital setting, but also as a service. It's traditionally been pharmacist, but I think this is starting to change. Again, it's kind of to do with the legalities of how it works in the UK. There are ways that some people can deliver those, and they are doing, not just flu vaccination, but also expanding to travel vaccinations. Once you've got the technique and understand the training behind what you need to do if there is an emergency in that situation, that can be applied to any kind of vaccination, depending on what the medication is that’s been delivered. I think there's definitely much more scope for pharmacy technicians to undertake these roles in the future.

Tiffany Kofroth: Here in the United States, PTCB has 2 distinct assessment-based certifications. One is a point-of-care technician, and the other one is in immunizations. They're distinctly two separate roles that we have here. Your immunizations could be anything from a baby getting vaccines at an early age to our vaccines for COVID-19, monkeypox, et cetera. Then there is also the point-of-care technician. Both of those positions are really at a retail or outpatient setting, not really in an institutional setting. The retails settings are the ones that are kind of setting the curve for the pharmacy technicians to really advance in those set roles.

As far as point-of-care, you're working with patients and pharmacists, so a multicultural team. If the patient wants to know if they're diabetic, maybe screening for certain diseases, those types of things would fall under the point-of-care technician. Really, it's fundamental, what the technicians are doing there because they're really providing that care that really goes at the top of their licensure, and they're providing that care that used to be done by a medical assistant or somewhere in a doctor's office, but now it's at your local pharmacy. Then from there, the pharmacist can discuss that with the physician and really make an educated opinion about what medications they might want to try, what medications are covered within their insurance plan. It's really great, the team that works together now, with the pharmacy technician and the pharmacist providing that quality of care for those outpatients.