LAS VEGAS — Three successful pharmacy innovators helped set a buoyant tone for the official kickoff of McKesson’s ideaShare 2012 conference here, as they shared success stories from their own community practice settings at a panel discussion hosted by Brian Tyler, president of McKesson U.S. Pharmaceutical.
The three pharmacy owners — Christine Jacobson of Wasatch Pharmacy Care in Ogden, Utah; Jonathan Brunswig of Scott City-Wichita County and J&J Health Mart Pharmacy in Kansas; and Loren Pierce of Wender & Roberts in Atlanta — are putting advanced concepts of patient care into practice within their pharmacies. Their depictions of clinical practice in such areas as disease management and monitoring, wellness and prevention, immunizations and compounding gave hundreds of attendees at the opening general session of ideaShare a hopeful glimpse of pharmacy’s potential as both a health profession and a revenue generator, beyond basic dispensing and counseling.
“As pharmacists our knowledge is very important, and people are willing to pay for that,” asserted Jacobson, who has built a thriving — and profitable — practice in disease management, preventive care and advanced counseling among patients in Utah.
Being in a care-giving profession, she said, means “you want to take care of everybody” who comes in the store with an ailment. Traditionally, said Jacobson, community pharmacists have offered that care for free, but pharmacy must evolve as a professional practice and break its dependence on the dispensing of medications as its sole means of compensation in order to survive.
Wasatch Pharmacy appears to have succeeded. “If my attorney can charge me for sending an email, I can certainly charge for my knowledge,” Jacobson asserted. She told attendees at the kickoff session that she charges patients $150 for in-depth counseling, and has a two-month backlog of appointments.
Tyler, who moderated the discussion, pointed to other forces that he said are boosting the status and visibility of pharmacists as vital health resources in their communities. Among them: the tidal wave of generic drug introductions now sweeping through the nation’s pharmacies as a series of blockbuster drugs lose patent protection. “We’re at the crest of a generic wave,” said McKesson Pharmaceutical’s president, noting that pharmacies that do the best job of offering those lower-priced, higher-margin medicines will gain the most in patient loyalty and profitability.
Pierce said that providing his patients with the “savings opportunity” afforded by those generics “makes us shine” with those patients.
Brunswig agreed. “Patients are very aware of it … they understand that when a generic comes out, they’re going to save money,” he said. With McKesson’s One Stop generic program, he added, “We know we can get that generic out quickly,” as soon as it becomes available.
In his opening address to attendees, Paul Julian, McKesson Corp. executive VP and group president, stressed the key role that independent pharmacists play in the nation’s health system, and the value of interaction among those pharmacists. “That’s the purpose of ideaShare,” he said, “to provide you with a forum to generate ideas together that can ultimately help you drive your business forward.”
McKesson is a powerful ally, Julian noted. The company now delivers a third of all medicines used daily in North America, with 99.998% accuracy. Its claims processing network touches 90% of U.S. retail pharmacies. And the company is set to open the largest distribution center in its history at the end of the summer: a 630,000-sq.-ft. behemoth in Olive Branch, Miss.
IdeaShare’s opening session also gave the company a chance to honor some exemplary practitioners of community pharmacy. Named Pharmacy of the Year with the Overall Excellence Award was Gateway Pharmacy South in Bismarck, N.D., which has won the passionate loyalty of local consumers with a highly personalized brand of patient care and services like compounding and clinical care. Company president Mark Aurit credited McKesson for its support of those services, and said it was the reason he joined the Health Mart pharmacy network.