RICHMOND, Va. - Ukrop's pharmacists here are boning up on osteoporosis screenings. Ukrop's Super Markets recently received national attention for its ongoing project, which empowers its pharmacists to test, identify and refer patients through pharmacy-based bone mineral density (BMD) screenings.
The screenings assess osteoporosis risk levels and are available at seven of Ukrop's stores on designated weekly wellness days.
Ten million American's have osteoporosis; 28 million are threatened by it, but "breakthrough results" are possible through screenings in pharmacies, as Ukrop's found. According to results from Project ImPACT: Osteoporosis, published in the March/April 2004 issue of the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association, pharmacy-based testing is helpful in assessing osteoporosis risk levels.
Ukrop's initially screened 532 patients at its first testing event, held three years ago.
"There was a lot of excitement at the screening events, which were very busy, and patients were impressed with the ultrasound technology and the ability to get this innovative service in our stores," said Kim Swiger, manager of pharmacy quality assurance and associate wellness at Ukrop's.
"The community was flabbergasted at the technology in Ukrop's pharmacy," she said. Project ImPACT: Osteoporosis trained over 50 Ukrop's pharmacists here on how to use the screening device as well as the correct protocol on referring patients for diagnoses with a physician, said Ellis. The tutorial took two days.
"Our goal is to show that pharmacists can identify patients at-risk," said William Ellis, chief executive officer of the APhA Foundation.
Of the 532 patients screened, Ukrop's pharmacists found 37% of patients screened were high risk, 33% were moderate risk and 30% were low risk.
"What was most shocking," said Ellis, "was that 78% of high-risk patients were unaware of their risk level."
Osteoporosis, or porous bone, is a silent disease that can remain unnoticed until a bone is fractured. Women are four times more likely to be affected, but more than 2 million men also suffer from the disease. Until Ukrop's pharmacy-based testing, osteoporosis screening was only available through a physician or specialist.
"The key to preventing and treating osteoporosis is education," said Swiger.
Ukrop's pharmacists have been trained to assess risk levels, refer high-risk patients for assessment and diagnosis with a physician, as well as assist in managing prescribed drug therapy to maintain adherence and reach therapeutic goals through education, counseling and point of care testing.
Patients come to the pharmacy, get tested, receive their results and educational information from their pharmacists as to the next step in care. "It absolutely amazed the community," said Swiger.
The next phase of the project, said Swiger, is medication therapy management. Ukrop's pharmacists will monitor, educate, counsel and follow up with patients diagnosed with osteoporosis.
As a result of Ukrop's and APhA Foundation presentations to major health plans in Richmond, UnitedHealthcare of the Mid-Atlantic reached an agreement to pay for the services provided to its members.
The program allows Ukrop's pharmacists to interact with patients in an area outside what they already offer, Swiger said, and enables Ukrop's to make a positive impact on the community.