Cardinal bolsters retail toolkit for Leader-brand independents

Leader Pharmacy
Cardinal’s SVP independent pharmacy sales: Tom DeGemmis
Corp. Offices: Dublin, Ohio
Number of Members/Stores: 3,400
Web page: www.myleader.com

If there’s an independent pharmacy in your market area with a Leader Pharmacy logo on the storefront — and with more than 3,400 Leader stores nationwide, chances are good that there’s one nearby — don’t be fooled by the store’s modest footprint or the folksy, mom-and-pop image it may project. The store’s owners have an arsenal of sophisticated business tools at their disposal, and the backing of an $87 billion, global health services and wholesaling giant.

Leader is the retail buying, marketing and merchandising arm of Cardinal Health. And with estimated annual sales of more than $13 billion, most of it in prescriptions and health-and-wellness products, the Leader brand constitutes one of the largest drug store networks in the United States.

The key, of course, is to create a national identity without sacrificing the local character and customer loyalty of each member pharmacy. With that in mind, Cardinal’s store-support teams and technology gurus have developed everything from highly sophisticated automated replenishment and pricing systems to exclusive branding programs and product lines in a bid to turn the Leader brand into a nationally recognized symbol of expanded, personalized pharmacy services. Among them:

  • LeaderNET, a service that provides back-end managed-care resources to put Leader store owners on a more equal footing with pharmacy benefit managers and other third-party payers. The program provides contract-negotiating prowess and expertise, access to new niche markets, membership in a provider network and other services;
  • An exclusive line of home healthcare and mobility products — along with marketing materials, in-store signage, catalogs and other tools — under the brand name TrustWorth;
  • An outbound calling technology, unveiled last summer, to help pharmacies build relationships with customers. The so-called Abby system is a Web-based, interactive calling tool that allows retailers to notify patients when prescriptions are ready or need to be refilled, share information regarding special promotions and conduct customer surveys.
  • New technology to help independents manage and build sales at the front of the store. Cardinal partnered with ECRS to offer the scanning and tracking system, which automatically re-orders front-of-store merchandise as it’s purchased, provides electronic order updates and confirmations, and provides profit analysis on products at the item level.

In the fall, Cardinal added another tool for independents: an Internet-based training program on better customer-service techniques. The program, called myPharmacyTrainer, is now available to Leader Pharmacy members nationwide.

MyPharmacyTrainer revolves around a proprietary online training site that features a series of interactive, virtual training sessions, each lasting less than 10 minutes and each teaching a different pharmacy-related lesson on such topics as managing chronic diseases or promoting private-label products to help patients save money. Using the training program, said Steve Lawrence, SVP marketing and sales support for Cardinal Health’s pharmaceutical supply chain business, can help independent pharmacy owners coach their employees to deliver better patient care, improve customer loyalty and boost sales, “with minimal time investment.”

Mike Kaufmann, Cardinal’s group president of healthcare supply chain services for pharmaceuticals, said Cardinal is “creating long-term partnerships” through its still-expanding Leader program “to help independent pharmacies attract new, loyal customers, drive efficiency and improve their financial performance.”

Addressing independent pharmacy owners at the company’s 2008 Retail Business Conference, Tom DeGemmis, Cardinal’s SVP independent pharmacy sales, said the wholesale and health services giant had “redefined Leader” based on an extensive effort to gauge the needs of the thousands of pharmacy operators in the network. “As a result, we’ve identified four key areas that can benefit independent pharmacies the most,” he said.

Those priorities, he said, include improving reimbursements for Leader owners through better third-party claims management and other initiatives; streamlining operations for better cost management; creating alternate revenue streams; and boosting market share.

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