Legislature dropped the ball on easier flu testing

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There are many issues that do not get addressed during the annual meeting of the legislative session — that is just the nature of politics and lawmaking. However, there are very few issues that come before lawmakers that will save the state money, make Floridians healthier and have a positive impact on families. And that issue is the “test and treat” legislation that would allow for Floridians to be able to visit their local pharmacy to be tested and treated for the flu.

Picture this: You or someone in your family spike a fever mid-morning. You were feeling fine but all of a sudden you feel awful. It is flu season and you fear the worst. You end up having to go to the emergency room, filled with sick people and have to wait hours to find out if you have the flu.

Now, picture this: You can jump in the car, head to a local pharmacy and visit your pharmacist, be swabbed for the flu and have a machine quickly and easily tell you if you tested positive for the flu. If you do, you get Tamiflu right there at your pharmacy of choice and can also stroll down the aisle for ibuprofen for your fever reducer of choice, and even grab some popsicles and cough drops on the way out. One stop shopping, testing and treating, and even grabbing necessary rations, all at your local, trusted pharmacy.

Imagine if you are a parent and your child exhibits these symptoms, the last place you want to go is the ER, and your family doctor cannot get you in a timely manner because they are full that day or you have to wait a long time for your scheduled appointment time. Even if you do get in, you have to get tested, wait in a waiting room of likely sick people and then drive to your pharmacy for your medicine.

I imagine by now, you are thinking: Wow, in a time when health care costs are on the rise and time is of the essence to prevent spreading illnesses like the flu, why this innovative option in health care is not available and cannot pass the legislature. Well, the answer is simple — politics. For years, there has been an ongoing battle within the medical community over something known as “scope of practice.” Simply explained, scope of practice is where some in the medical community do not want other health care providers, like pharmacists, to offer what they do. Now, they do have some sensible reasons as to why. Some will say a doctor is better equipped to tell you what is best for your health. Some will say what if you have the flu and other illnesses as well, you should be seen by a doctor. And those are all reasonable scenarios that should be discussed. Discussed. That’s the key word here.

These health care alternatives should receive fair hearings and should be vetted completely and openly. But they are not. The legislation, which passed out all of its committees and passed the House floor with minimal opposition, failed to get a committee hearing in the Senate. All that is missing is voices from Floridians like you reaching out to your elected leaders and telling them you want them to discuss and hear the test and treat legislation. In a world where we have choice in education, choice in transportation, and choice in other innovative ways to make our lives healthier and more efficient, why not look into ways to streamline health care and testing and treating for treatable illnesses like the flu?

The author is a pharmacist and co-owner of C&C Community Pharmacy in Orlando. Originally featured in Orlando Sentinel.