DENVER — The National Association of Chain Drug Stores' 2012 Pharmacy & Technology Conference got under way Sunday at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver as NACDS board chairman and president and CEO of Walgreens Greg Wasson spoke about how far pharmacy has come during his career and the increasingly significant role it will play in health care in the future.
The show's first business session began with opening remarks by conference chairman Vic Curtis, SVP pharmacy of Costco Wholesale, who spoke of the value and significance of the event. “Certainly, value is derived from exploring new business opportunities, attending quality educational programs and the interaction with business partners,” Curtis said. “but perhaps the event's most meaningful aspect is its concentrated focus on the external business challenges that are shaping and defining our industry and the practice of pharmacy.”
Following an overview of his career and some of the activities at NACDS, Wasson gave a brief talk on next year's Total Store Expo, the show that will combine NACDS' Pharmacy & Technology, Marketplace and Supply Chain & Logistics conferences into one, set to take place in August 2013 in Las Vegas. He then launched into the “third bucket” of his speech, talking about the pharmacy profession's dramatic evolution, from the days when pharmacists mixed medications themselves to today, when they can dispense millions of medications. Revisiting the push-pull concept he discussed in his speech at the NACDS Annual Conference in April, Wasson talked about how the threat of commoditization of pharmacy is helping to increase its importance, creating both a "push" and a "pull" that are together driving the practice of pharmacy forward.
“While statements that minimize the value of community pharmacy may aggravate us, the fact is, they're really just pushing us to drive and accelerate the role community pharmacy plays in health care,” Wasson said. “The risk of commoditization of the pharmacy industry is pushing all of us to advance the role of community pharmacy.”
But, the demand for new and innovative solutions to the country's healthcare crisis is also pulling the pharmacy retail industry to step up and take a more active role, he said. “People absolutely see the value of community pharmacy,” Wasson said. “The future is pulling us to it.”
Wasson highlighted many of the new, updated approaches to community pharmacy pursued by retailers, such as Walgreens' own Well Experience stores, as well as Rite Aid's Wellness stores, Bartell's “next-generation” stores, Kerr Drug's Community Healthcare Centers and CVS' new prototypes. “So it's up to all of us to step up, to look long-term and not short-term and advance this great profession,” Wasson said. “We have tremendous opportunity.”
In particular, he said, retail pharmacy can play a key role in addressing gaps in primary care. Wasson noted that nearly 70% of people in the United States don't have or don't use a primary-care physician, and emergency rooms are overflowing as a result. “With 30-40 million more people in this country gaining healthcare coverage, we are well-positioned to fill that void,” Wasson said, talking about the services already offered, such as immunizations, health screenings and medication therapy management. “If pharmacists and nurse practitioners are allowed to practice at the top of their profession, our community pharmacies can provide a high percentage of primary-care services in the U.S.,” he said.
After Wasson's speech, and a short speech by NACDS Foundation president Kathleen Jaeger to introduce the inaugural members of the foundation's first Faculty Scholars Program, former Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe delivered the event's keynote speech, including anecdotes about his career as chairman, his views on a wide range of issues and his predictions on the 2012 presidential election.