K-VA-T leverages pharmacy to help customers live healthier

ABINGDON, Va. —Supermarket pharmacy is ideally positioned to help ease some of the pressure on the U.S. healthcare system. Food City executives couldn’t agree more.

“People are in their supermarket about once a week, and that’s much more frequent than in a chain or independent or community pharmacy,” said Don Clark, VP pharmacy operations for Food City. “Because of that, the pharmacist has the opportunity to be a more integral part of their health care.”

Clark acknowledged that Food City’s initiatives remain in the earlier stages, but the company—whose corporate name is K-VA-T Food Stores, an acronym of its trade area: Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee—no doubt is committed to helping its customers live healthier lives, and is leveraging pharmacy to achieve that goal.

For example, the company has a full immunization program that goes beyond seasonal flu and pneumonia to travel vaccines and Gardasil, among others. There are more than 70 certified immunizers who are pharmacists for Food City. About two-thirds of the company’s pharmacies have immunizations available.

Food City
No. of stores106
Stores with Rx73

In late 2009, the company had given 10% more seasonal flu shots than last year, and 20 stores in Tennessee were actively giving the H1N1 vaccine. Also in the state, Food City is participating in distribution of antiviral medications.

In east Tennessee and Sullivan County, the company offers diabetes counseling modeled after the Asheville Project. A certified diabetes educator/Food City pharmacist in Knoxville travels store to store to offer diabetes education at the store level. “I think people get confused…about healthy eating and how it relates to their overall health,” Clark said. “I think in the supermarket we should be focusing on what are healthy eating habits. Obesity in the United States is the root of a lot of these health problems that we have.”

To help patients with chronic diseases, Food City partners with local colleges to develop disease state management services through its pharmacies. Clark said such services are especially important for Food City shoppers because many of its stores are located in very rural areas where access to a doctor may be limited.

“It saves healthcare dollars because you are not having to pay the expensive healthcare visits, and it brings new revenue streams into the pharmacy business because it…is outside of putting pills in a bottle and getting paid for it,” Clark said. “And it allows us to service an underserved population because traditionally the only other alternative people have is to go see their doctor.”

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