NACDS Rx conference will spotlight health reform’s impact, say officials

ALEXANDRIA, Va. With the start of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores’ 2010 Pharmacy and Technology Conference a little more than a week away, "retail attendance is running 10% higher than 2009 and still climbing," according to the chain pharmacy group. Those who make the trip to San Diego’s Convention Center Aug. 28 to 31 will find plenty to do to justify their time and travel budgets, NACDS leaders said.

This year, the hundreds of pharmacy retailers, suppliers and guests who attend the 53rd annual pharmacy event will conduct business and share knowledge against the extraordinary backdrop of sweeping changes in the healthcare system, an explosion in health information technology and a still-struggling economy and job market mired in fears of a double-dip recession. To meet those challenges, they’ll immerse themselves in four days of "timely, relevant and cutting-edge" business and educational forums, said Jim Whitman, NACDS SVP member programs and services, and they’ll hear from a wide range of speakers "who ... know the industry and are knowledgeable about the issues," Whitman told Drug Store News. 

The four-day gathering will showcase how-to business content, idea brainstorming and talks from prominent policy-making, business and healthcare experts. But dominating both the general session speeches and many of the educational forums this year will be the health-reform law that went into effect earlier this year – and its impact on all aspects of retail pharmacy, said Edith Rosato, NACDS SVP pharmacy affairs and NACDS Foundation president.

That includes the reform law’s encouragement of such concepts as medication therapy management and a more integrated approach to patient care, based on the development of collaborative-care teams of physicians, pharmacists, nurse practitioners and other professionals in close coordination with patients and their health plans.

"There are sections in health-reform legislation that are very favorable for community pharmacy, and there is grant money that will be available to pharmacy for creating these care coordination teams," Rosato explained in a mid-August interview with Drug Store News. "So if you look at our agenda, the annual forum is all about healthcare reform."

Indeed, she said, the recent release of an updated version of NACDS’ "Principles of Healthcare Reform" will be "a pivot point" for this year’s meeting. The document stakes out the role community pharmacy should play in a reformed, more integrated healthcare system. "Our industry has really jelled and come together in the past two years around healthcare reform," Rosato said. "This is another avenue for us to get the word out about the valuable role of the pharmacist, and working together as a profession and an industry in proving our value."

Thus, she said, one focus for the 2010 pharmacy gathering will be "getting our team members up to speed with what’s being discussed in Washington, the legislative and regulatory issues, and the opportunities to get involved in these demonstration projects where money is going to be available from the government through the [health-reform] act."

Now that the bill has become law, Whitman added, "you can start narrowing in on what the potential issues are going to be in reimbursement, adherence, utilization and other areas that are going to be our issues and our strengths, as well as opportunities that this could bring."

How chain pharmacy retailers deal with the fast-changing healthcare system likely will feature heavily in general session remarks by NACDS president and CEO Steven Anderson; NACDS chairman Larry Merlo, who is president of CVS/pharmacy; and conference chairman and Hy-Vee VP pharmacy Bob Egeland. Health reform’s likely impact on the pharmaceutical market also is sure to be addressed by IMS Health VP industry relations Doug Long, whose drug industry overview has become one of the most highly anticipated speeches at the annual pharmacy pow-wow.

The event’s morning general business sessions also will play host to two high-profile keynote speakers from the political and academic arenas. Dana Perino, political commentator and former White House press secretary in President George W. Bush’s administration, will give a talk entitled, "The Mood of America: What's Next?" David Cutler, Harvard University professor of applied economics and an adviser to President Barack Obama’s presidential campaign "will offer poignant perspectives on health care and the economy," according to NACDS.

"Our two major business program speakers, Perrino and Cutler, are going to touch on not only healthcare reform, but, for Dana, a little broader perspective about how that all plays into the cost of health care and the economic situation we find ourselves in," Rosato said. "These are very timely and critical issues we’re faced with."

The conference also features a packed schedule of 17 educational sessions, focusing on topics as diverse as health reform, information technology, patient adherence, quality assurance and the real costs of returned pharmaceutical inventory.

Also on tap is the Meet the Retailer program, which gives suppliers a perspective from their retailer counterparts on the most effective ways for them to market their product or service; and the annual Meet the Rx Market event, an all-day series of short, table-top meetings designed to bring together retailers and suppliers to focus on new products and services.

Preparing in advance with your supplier or retailer counterparts, Whitman said, will be key to a successful meeting. "What we’ve learned is you need to be prepared prior to getting there," he asserted. "There’s a certain amount of advance work each of the teams has to do prior to their arrival to really get the most out of the Pharmacy and Technology Conference. If you’re willing to do that, and get engaged with it, the benefits are unlimited," he added. "If you’re going to try to get caught up on Sunday morning, you’re always going to be running behind."

Advance work aside, Rosato said, "it’s a fantastic opportunity for our members to come out and hear the best and the brightest from those who are entrenched in healthcare reform, and for our members to decide as they go through our programming where their organization needs to be positioned with healthcare reform."

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