What goes around comes around

I can hardly believe that I will once again have the distinct honor of facilitating a discussion with an impressive panel of industry leaders from both the retail and supplier side in this, my tenth appearance as moderator of Drug Store News’ Annual Diabetes Forum.

Change is constant in our industry: mergers, acquisitions, competitive newcomers, economic challenges, healthcare reform, governmental restrictions and an aging population. For as much change as we have endured, there remains a daunting challenge for the healthcare system at large that has far-reaching implications. And that is the maintenance of healthy lifestyles to prevent chronic conditions — such as diabetes.

I believe it is incumbent upon each sector of the healthcare value chain to raise awareness and focus on prevention. Chronic conditions are crippling our society and affecting our ability to provide quality care at an affordable price. Such chronic diseases as heart disease, cancer and diabetes are the leading causes of death and disability in the United States. These diagnoses account for 7-of-every-10 deaths and affect the quality of life of 90 million Americans.

Although common and costly, many chronic diseases are preventable. It begins with lifestyle choices that are within the power of individuals to change. Nutritious eating, physical activity and avoiding tobacco are steps everyone can take to avoid these conditions. And, even if an individual is already living with diabetes, heart disease, arthritis or another chronic condition, eating more healthful food and getting more exercise can go a long way toward better managing the illness, avoiding complications and prolonging life.

I’ve often wondered what it would look like if we could transform retail pharmacy to focus on prevention rather than on treating the sick. Could a diabetes-focused category be merchandised that begins with diet and exercise rather than blood glucose meters and test strips? Do you think this could place a much-needed spotlight on the progression of a chronic condition like diabetes and change lifestyles?

Hamacher Resource Group vice president Dave Wendland, a 20-plus-year retail industry veteran, is a popular presenter and discussion facilitator available to speak at corporate and association events on a variety of retail-related topics. HRG is a research, marketing and category management firm specializing in consumer health care at retail. Product manufacturers, healthcare distributors, retailers, technology partners and others rely on HRG for strategic and creative solutions to help build their business. Learn more at www.hamacher.com.



- 2:43 PM
McguinnessK says

Dave, I believe the answer to both questions is yes. Weight management and associated chronic diseases have macroeconomic consequences. The policy debate reflects this. But, from a behavior change viewpoint, weight management is a personal care problem with self-image consequences. Personal transformation can lead one to the clinic, or to the pharmacy, or to the beauty aisle. A consumer’s path will differ based on personal characteristics and circumstances that we need to know more about. Big pharmacy can leverage this in a big way. A digitally-based loyalty program, like Walgreens’ Balance Rewards or CVS Caremark’s ExtraCare, could be a hub that serves the personal transformation objectives of a customer over a lifetime, as well as the business objectives of the pharmacy, the clinic, and the health and beauty division. The hub would connect customers to an assortment of effective, evidence-based software (apps) that promotes the sort of behavior change needed to prevent or manage chronic diseases. These apps will add therapeutically valuable data to marketing insights. But first, software must become a legitimate therapy as worthy of prescription as a drug. This is the rub. This is “what is missing.” Software will emerge as an effective behavior change therapy, this is certain. But first apps that use the consumer as a proxy for advertising revenue must be displaced by software that generates measurable health outcomes. Pharmacy is in the best position to advance this and leverage the insights provided by the data to improve both software effectiveness and the merchandising effectiveness. If software is transformed from snake oil into therapy, the appropriate use of a loyalty program as a hub may be the way to merchandise digital health tools in retail pharmacy and make millions well. This is big and doable. We just need a big volunteer.

- 5:44 PM
dave_wendland@hamacher.com says

Thank you for contributing to the discussion. The journey to better health -- or to chronic condition management or prevention -- is indeed a personal one. And the entry point to that journey is as unique as individuals themselves. I tend to agree that enabling software will emerge that drives better outcomes. We must not, however, lose sight that we will forever be in the "people" business.

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