Cardinal Health 2013 RBC: Executives identify new opportunities for independents during opening session

SEATTLE — The future is now. Material changes to health care already are impacting how independent pharmacies operate, and Cardinal Health has a host of new products and services to help their independent pharmacy partners capitalize on opportunities within that change. That was a key message for attendees of the standing-room-only opening business session, here, Thursday morning at the Washington State Convention Center, signaling the official start of the annual Cardinal Health Retail Business Conference.

“The future changes in health care you’ve been hearing about, they're here right now. Your call to action must be to discover new horizons,” Steve Lawrence, SVP of retail independent sales for Cardinal Health, told the packed auditorium, invoking the theme of Cardinal Health RBC 2013, now in its 23rd year. "And I promise you, they’re out there. To thrive, independent pharmacy has to undergo a real revolution. You have to expand beyond a pharmacy [and] become a community healthcare company.”

And the opportunities are out there, Cardinal Health executives said — another key theme of the Thursday morning business session. “This RBC is all about your journey of discovery,” Ron Clerico, VP of marketing strategy and solutions for retail, alternate care and government at Cardinal Health, told attendees. Clerico named three key initiatives that independents attending the show “must see” to help them seize the moment, including the company’s showcase pharmacy design concept, which was among the key highlights on the show floor; its acquisition of Independence Medical and the synergies DME can offer an independent pharmacy owner; and new technology tools from Cardinal Health to help with reimbursement challenges, which are likely to intensify under health reform.

“First is our Cardinal Health Showcase. We’re recreated the pharmacy to give a real-world perspective on how programs and services can be positioned in your business,” Clerico said. “Second, the recent acquisition of Independence Medical will increase our offerings in DME and home healthcare products,” he said.

For the third “must-see,” Cardinal Health announced the launch of enhanced reimbursement consulting services being offered as part of an online portal. “We are providing a dedicated adviser and store-specific reports to help pharmacies better understand and manage reimbursements and profitability, as well as audit risk,” Jon Giacomin, president of U.S. Pharmaceutical Distribution at Cardinal Health, told attendees.

Cardinal Health also announced the introduction of a specialty pharmacy solution called Cardinal Health Specialty Pharmacy Alliance. “Contracting with Specialty Pharmacy Alliance gives you the ability to dispense specialty prescriptions in those cases where [independents] are eligible to purchase the medications,” Giacomin said. Cardinal Health helps handle benefits investigation, patient education, and management and reporting back to the manufacturer. “In addition, they work with the patient’s PBM and the prescribing physician to order refills.”

Independent pharmacy will play an essential role as the final pieces of healthcare reform continue to fall into place, Mike Kaufmann, CEO of Cardinal Health Pharmaceutical Segment, told RBC 2103 attendees. "Not only in providing services to this [expanded pool of] patients, but you can help them sign up for the benefits. As the trusted community resource, you can help your patients sort through the information.”

Cardinal Health closed the opening session with a special treat for attendees — a keynote address from Chris Gardner, best-selling author of “The Pursuit of Happyness.” Gardner holds a special connection to community pharmacists — he served three years as a primary caregiver to his wife, who had brain cancer. “There are some folks in your communities who count on you and what you do every day,” Gardner said. “What you do every day is making a difference in somebody’s life in your community, and you know what, that’s why I came here today,” he said. “I wanted to say ‘thank you’ for those folks.”

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