Grand Rapids-based Meijer Inc. is offering customers flu and strep throat testing — and even store-written prescriptions for those ailments — at a select number of pharmacies.
It’s the latest example of how pharmacies and big box stores with prescription services are getting into the business of minor medicine.
Meijer’s service, announced Wednesday, is part of a study by Ferris State University and the University of Nebraska Media Center College of Pharmacy. The study will take place at 12 of Michigan Meijer locations, including the new Detroit store on the city’s northern border. Patients ages 18 and older can get free tests for the flu and strep throat.
The study was commissioned to measure the effectiveness of the tests and how the medicine is administered. Flu tests will run through May, and strep throat tests will run through August.
“This is not a replacement of physician services,” said Karen Mankowski, vice president of pharmacy operations for Meijer. “Increasing accessibility to testing for flu and strep throat, and enabling pharmacists to work from those results, means that patients might self-treat symptoms less and get better more quickly. That decreases the risk of spreading those common illnesses, and allows doctors and nurse practitioners to provide care to patients with more complicated conditions.”
Pharmacists at participating stores went through a training certification program in order to administer the noninvasive rapid tests. Similar programs exits at other drugstore pharmacies.
CVS has “minute clinics” at several locations in Detroit and Ann Arbor, where nurse practitioners can perform tests and write prescriptions. Walgreens also offers health care clinics at some of its stores, but none in Michigan.
Ken Dalto, a Farmington Hills-based retail analyst, said Meijer’s move helps big boxes differentiate themselves and helps customers.
“It’s addressing high health care costs, and it’s helping bring people into the store,” he said. “The drug store market is saturated. You have to continually change and differentiate yourself.”