Student Pharmacist

Written by student pharmacists for student pharmacists, Student Pharmacist magazine provides the latest on career preparation, leadership, legislative activities and advocacy efforts, patient care projects, APhA–ASP Chapter innovations, life on rotation, tips from new practitioners, and more.

Pandemic innovation
Kranthi Chinthamalla
/ Categories: Student Magazine

Pandemic innovation

Olivia Kinney provides a rapid antibody test for a patient at a Kroger Pharmacy in Cincinnati.

The challenges of the past year have pushed the pharmacy profession to adapt faster than ever. With pharmacists’ expanded scope of practice come technology advancements, evolving payment models, and heightened responsibilities. Our patients need us, and we continue to answer their call in innovative ways.

Innovation in clinical services

The Kroger Co. serves more than 11 million customers every day in 35 states and the District of Columbia. In Kroger Health, our more than 2,200 pharmacies and clinics, we are committed to an innovative approach in community-based pharmacy practice that is driven by our vision to help people live healthier lives.

Our pharmacy teams focus on improving patient outcomes through a wide range of services. Medication adherence is one of our top priorities, so we have a targeted intervention program and convenience offerings, including an appointment-based medication synchronization model and automated refills. 

In addition to providing health coaching and medication therapy management, we are leading development in ways to change how America eats. For example, our team of registered dietitians developed OptUP, a mobile app that helps patients view their purchases through data connected to their shopper card or by barcode scanning to “opt up” to a healthier option.

To accomplish these ambitious efforts, every member of our pharmacy team practices at the top of their license. All our clinical programs are designed with role-based task completion in mind, so the entire team is invested in our patients’ care.

Clinical services during a pandemic

With the pandemic’s onset, our teams have stepped up in their communities to be a trusted source of knowledge and location for clinical services. Like the rest of the world, Kroger Health turned to providing services both virtually and telephonically; we conduct medication reviews and clinical interventions over the phone or when patients pick up their prescriptions.

Our dietitian team continues to offer free telenutrition appointments to any interested patient. Technology advancements such as a contactless appointment tool enable patients to receive necessary preventive care with less paperwork or the potential to contract or spread the COVID-19 virus.

In addition to our existing clinical services, the Kroger Health team built and executes a full suite of COVID-19 solutions. For active infection, our pharmacy and clinic teams provide diagnostic tests in drive-throughs across the United States. Furthermore, we were proud to receive FDA emergency use authorization (EUA) for our COVID-19 Home Collection Kit. Patients collect their own nasal or saliva specimen at home and send the test to our lab partners for processing.

For past infections, we also recognized a need for rapid antibody testing. To that end, we became the nation’s first retailer to offer a CLIA-waived EUA test in our pharmacies and clinics, with results available in 15 minutes.  

COVID-19 vaccine provision is upon us, and I am hopeful. The lessons learned from early in the pandemic have already shaped how Kroger Health plans to tackle this new challenge. 

For example, our innovative appointment scheduler technology is a key advancement to managing expectations for our patients and providers. It allows us to schedule appointments for both doses at the same time, and a screening tool helps us remain adherent to phased eligibility. Furthermore, our experience running flu shot and coronavirus testing clinics is valuable for anticipated upcoming COVID-19 vaccine clinics.

Innovation in clinical services is essential, and innovation at the large scale of more than 2,200 pharmacies is no small feat. As I reflect on the vast amount of work our teams have completed this year, I am proud of their persistence and dedication on many levels. Despite the changing rules, Kroger Health has remained rooted in its mission to simplify health care, and our profession has remained rooted in our oath to embrace and advocate changes that improve patient care. 

Career insights

In my role as a clinical program development manager, I am responsible for designing preventive health programs that close gaps in medication therapy, promote safe opioid use, and increase access to health screenings. During the pandemic, each day has presented a new challenge, but it is consistently rewarding to have an idea, build a process, and see the effect the effort has on population health.  

I’ve been fortunate to have fierce mentors and unique experiences that led to my current job. After graduating from West Virginia University in 2016, I continued my education as a community-based pharmacy resident with Virginia Commonwealth University. I remained as a pharmacist at Kroger Health and then worked as a patient care coordinator responsible for 18 pharmacies in central Virginia and southern West Virginia.  

In an unexpected twist, the chance arose for further training in a fellowship at Kroger Health in Ohio. It’s not intuitive to take a step back into a training program after having a fulltime job, but my mentors provided perspective, and I was hopeful that the chance to learn from these leaders would be invaluable. 

During this time, I was also able to complete a master’s degree in health outcomes research from the University of Cincinnati. Shortly thereafter, I earned my current role in the beginning days of the pandemic.

Like so many of you, I chose a career in pharmacy because I wanted to help people. In school, I believed direct patient care was the best way for me to fulfill that goal. I did not expect to take this career path, but by trusting my mentors and seizing my moments, I’ve discovered I can help people in this role in an impactful and satisfying way. 

In 2021, I am choosing to be optimistic for brighter days ahead! I wish the same for you: courage to say yes to unexpected opportunities, resilience to adapt in uncertain times, and joy in the work you do.

Olivia Kinney, PharmD, MS, is a clinical program development manager for Kroger Health and a 2020–21 APhA New Practitioner Network Member-at-large.

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