Traditional strep tests require patients to visit a doctor’s office and wait 24-72 hours to find out if they test positive for this nasty bacterial infection.
In the interim, patients suffer with uncomfortable throat pain and fever while they wait for their results. These new rapid strep tests, currently being offered at select pharmacies in Alberta, British Columbia and Nova Scotia, can produce a test result in just 10 minutes.
Certain pharmacists, legislated with the ability to offer expanded healthcare services can even prescribe an antibiotic to patients who test positive. Patients can be assessed, tested, and treated in the pharmacy, without having to ever set foot in the doctor’s office.
It does, however, come with a price tag since it is not a covered healthcare benefit – it costs $15 to have your throat swabbed in the pharmacy. The advantage to patients is that it saves them time and hassle that would otherwise be associated with lengthy visits to a doctor’s office.
While this rapid strep test seems to be convenient for patients and a win-win for everyone, not all healthcare providers are convinced. Some physicians are skeptical of the new practice, claiming the test may have questionable accuracy and that many branches of the clinical assessment algorithm could be missed, since the pharmacist is not able to perform a detailed physical exam.
Any false positives that the test produces could also lead to overprescribing of antibiotics and could compromise antimicrobial stewardship. A false negative could result in an untreated strep infection would could manifest into something more severe like Scarlet Fever.