Q&A with George Barrett: Cardinal Health’s commitment to independent pharmacy

With the 2013 Cardinal Health Retail Business Conference approaching, Drug Store News sat down with George Barrett, chairman and CEO of Cardinal Health, to discuss the company’s commitment to independent pharmacy.

DSN: What do you see as the most significant challenges facing independent pharmacies today?

Barrett: Independent pharmacy does indeed face some challenges, as do all players in health care – but I would first highlight an important reality. Our nation is facing an unprecedented demographic shift with a dramatic aging of our population — nearly 10,000 people per day are reaching the age of Medicare eligibility. Further, the increase in chronic illness is significant. These two forces will mean that the demand for health care will only increase and pharmacy will play a major role in the way it's delivered. Having said that, we know that the evolution of health care in this country brings with it constant pressure to improve efficiency. We also know that some of the responses to those pressures are felt directly in community pharmacies. Two examples would be the pressure on reimbursement rates and the use of preferred networks. Independent pharmacies will need to work strategically to make sure that they can access pharmaceutical products in the most efficient ways and work diligently to assure that they participate in networks, providing broad access for consumers. We believe that we at Cardinal Health can help on both of those fronts.

DSN: Where do you see the most significant opportunities for independent pharmacies?

Barrett: Independent pharmacies play a critical role in the continuum of care. In cities and towns across the country; but especially in rural and larger urban areas, community pharmacists are the single most trusted, accessible healthcare provider for many patients. Now more than ever, market forces are driving demand for healthcare providers who can deliver cost-effective, personalized, accessible care to patients. Independent pharmacists are perfectly positioned to deliver on that need. Whether it’s helping patients with Diabetes better understand and manage their condition, or serving as a convenient resource for education and products for cardiovascular health, independent pharmacies have the local market knowledge, the patient relationships and the flexibility to meet the growing need for personalized services that improve patient health.

DSN: What do you see as the most successful strategies to compete in today’s increasingly competitive marketplace?

Barrett: The most successful strategies stem from each independent pharmacy serving its own patients, its own market, and finding its own ways to compete most effectively. But at the heart of their long term success is their ability to deliver personalized care.

One thing is for certain — every independent pharmacy needs to diversify revenue streams beyond the traditional filling of prescriptions. Every day, I’m inspired by stories of independent pharmacy owners who commit themselves to expanding their horizons by finding and implementing innovative ways to compete.

They understand their market, their local demographics, the community and the neighborhood in which they compete. Then they identify the patient care services that can help them diversify their businesses and deliver on the key healthcare needs of their communities. Every year at RBC, it’s exciting to see independent pharmacies learning from each other — sharing what’s working in their communities, and looking to their peers for new ideas to bring back to their stores. Our annual retail pharmacy best practices competition also highlights outstanding examples of innovative independents who are exploring new horizons and finding new ways to improve their bottom lines and the care they deliver to patients.

For more details on Cardinal Health RBC 2013, including the complete program agenda, visit cardinalhealth.com/rbc.

To keep up with all the news from Cardinal Health RBC 2013, visit DrugStoreNews.com/Cardinal-Health-Retail-Business-Conference-2013.

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