Cardinal Health 2017 Ken Wurster Award winner ‘leads by example’
During the opening-day evening activities at Cardinal Health RBC 2017, the spotlight was on Pedro Vanga, owner of Super Farmacia Vanga Inc. in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Vanga was honored with the 2017 Ken Wurster Community Leadership Award — accepting a $10,000 donation from Cardinal Health on his behalf to local organization, Iniciativa Comunitaria.
“After obtaining a PharmD, our winner could have gone anywhere to open a pharmacy,” said Michelle Britt, VP of sales for the east regions, as she and pharmacy business consultant, Claribel Ramos, and Cardinal Health Puerto Rico VP of sales and marketing, Michelle Montalvo, presented Vanga with the award. “Many places would have been more lucrative. But Vanga decided to open shop in the community that raised him. He focuses on the health needs of his patients and his community. He goes beyond the doors of the pharmacy to help the less fortunate receive care.”
Among some of Vanga’s efforts to serve his community beyond the pharmacy counter are regular free screening and diagnostic clinics, as well as his work with Iniciativa Comunitaria, which helps those addicted to drugs, as well as the homeless, become healthy through local clinics and outreach programs. Vanga also gives out backpacks full of school supplies to students in San Juan, and even hosts a Mother’s Day makeover event for the moms in his community every year.
“Pedro, I’ve had the privilege of visiting your pharmacy and meeting your family,” Cardinal Health SVP of marketing and customer solutions for the pharmaceutical distribution, Christi Pedra, said at a luncheon held for Vanga and the four award finalists at RBC 2017. “I’ve seen for myself the tremendous work you’ve done in your community, and we’re very proud that you are this year’s Ken Wurster Award winner. We wish you great and continued success.”
The four Ken Wurster Community Leadership Award finalists were also at the luncheon and present during the award presentation. These pharmacists are active in their communities and use their pharmacies as vehicles to improve the lives and health of their patients.
Finalist John Forbes, who owns a Medicap Pharmacy in Urbandale, Iowa — and was the Medicine Shoppe International Franchisee of the Year award winner at RBC 2017 — also serves as an Iowa state legislator, focusing on healthcare policy and budgeting the state’s Medicaid program.
Cheyenne, Okla.-based pharmacist, Jaclyn Stephens, of Cheyenne Professional Drug works with Cardinal Health’s retail independent advisory board and the Women in Pharmacy advisory board. She also — along with her 9-year-old son Alister — delivers Generation Rx presentations in her community to discuss the dangers of prescription drug abuse and misuse.
Finalist Ritesh Patel — who owns Drugsmart Pharmacy, Bayshore Homecare Pharmacy and Ramtown Pharmacy in Keansburg, N.J. — was the recipient of a 2013 New Jersey State Assembly proclamation and has served as a preceptor for the Rutgers University Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy since 2008.
And finalist Kevin Musto — who couldn’t attend RBC 2017, but sent employees Brandy Street and Melissa Urian, on his behalf — owns Atlantic Apothecary in Smyrna, Del. He also received the Delaware Pharmacists Society’s Bowl of Hygeia award for community service and was awarded the Cardinal Health Generation Rx Champion Award for the state of Delaware.
At the luncheon honoring Vanga and his fellow nominees, Vanga noted that although he was named the winner, the service of his fellow nominees — from their community outreach efforts to the daily task of working to improve the health of their patients in the pharmacy — could have easily earned them the crystal award he took home to San Juan.
“For me, it’s a real pleasure and an honor to be among so many other deserving pharmacists because we know what we do, and we do it with passion,” Vanga said. “So I know John, Ritesh, Jaclyn and Kevin just as much deserve the highest prize of the Ken Wurster award.”
Photos courtesy of Alabastro Photography
CPESN looks for pharmacy strength in numbers
As independent pharmacies face more margin pressure as payers look to cut costs, there is a new way pharmacists are coming together to get paid for the enhanced services they offer patients every day.
At a panel during the Cardinal Health RBC 2017 Opening Session that featured National Community Pharmacists Association CEO, DeAnn Mullins, NCPA president, Doug Hoey, and independent pharmacist, Rob Cockman of Midtown Pharmacy in Whitsett, N.C., the three outlined the role a new pharmacist network is playing in properly compensating independent pharmacists for their role in providing healthy patient outcomes.
The Community Pharmacy Enhanced Services Network — which has launched in 14 states and is at various stages of planning in 30 others — is the solution that has been developed to help pharmacists be properly reimbursed for their services in the age of DIR fees and shrinking margins — and while pharmacists still push for provider status under Medicare Part B.
“Yes, it’s another acronym to add to your vocabulary, but it’s an important one because we are taking back pharmacy one enhanced services network at a time,” Mullins said. CPESN works directly with payers, positioning pharmacies as a resource to help improve the health of their sickest patients in an effort to lower overall healthcare costs. In North Carolina, Cockman was on the ground floor of establishing a CPESN network that works with local payer Community Care of North Carolina.
“In addition to the prescription, we get paid monthly for every patient that’s in the CPESN network that comes to our pharmacy,” Cockman said about the payment structure for CPESN pharmacies that receive patients from CCNC case workers who think pharmacies can help.
“It’s extended and enhanced services above putting pills in bottles — stuff we already do on a daily basis,” he said. Mullins said that working within a CPESN network is a way for pharmacists to change how payers and PBMs think about pharmacy’s role in the healthcare system.
“To think about being paid differently means that you have to think differently,” she said. “There’s $3.2 trillion being spent on health care every year, and we’re considered a cost center — 10% of that spend is focused on pharmacy as a cost. I would say we are not a cost, we are an investment.”
For Hoey, CPESN is emerging at a time when there is fruitful ground for a new solution to the perennial and increasingly imperative question of how to lower healthcare costs while addressing some of the most pressing problems pharmacies face in this environment.
“One of the reasons the time is now for this is the pressure on disrupting the current payment system,” he said. “Prescription drug prices going off the charts and 17% of GDP going toward healthcare are putting pressure on finding another way, and this is another way. This begins to get at the issues that are near and dear to our hearts – like limited access. It begins to get at MACs and DIR fees. They’ll still be there, but there’s another way to be getting paid — in addition to the prescription side, the product side.”
Hoey and Cockman noted that even when demonstrating value, pharmacy tends to be seen as a cost center rather than a resource. If that perception changes and pharmacies can better make their value known to key stakeholders, pharmacies can begin to tap into the other 90% of healthcare spending.
“Pharmacy is only 10% of overall medical spend, and we’ve been stuck in that 10% ever since that model came about,” Cockman said. “Being part of a CPESN is a way for us to say ‘We can’t argue with PBMs over our value anymore — let’s make our way into the other 90% of the total medical spend and show our worth there.’”
But it won’t happen without work — including learning more and becoming part of a network.
“There’s no reason why any of you can’t do any of the same things we do in North Carolina,” Cockman said. “I implore you to find out how to tap into the networks that are already there or help start your own network.”
Photos courtesy of Alabastro Photography
Fuse looks at ‘future of pharmacy’ while showcasing its adherence and wellness innovation
On the tradeshow floor at Cardinal Health RBC 2017, the booth for the company’s innovation lab, Fuse, was staffed by Fuse engineers and healthcare innovation experts highlighting their work to develop solutions for the evolving pharmacy business, as well as fit pharmacists’ ever-changing needs.
“As the innovation center of Cardinal Health, Fuse is constantly looking to innovate in the area of health care,” Fuser, Jessie Olesnanik, said. “We’re looking about five years out — what are the possibilities for what the practice of pharmacy will look like, how might the pharmacist’s role change in that amount of time and how can we show that Fuse and Cardinal Health are thinking about things in the near future and developing solutions to address that?”
To showcase these elements, the booth was divided into three sections: Explore, Experiment and Pilot.
In the Explore area, Fusers hear from customers about what they think the future of pharmacy will look like in the coming years, and they showcase Cardinal Health thought leadership on how the pharmacy and technology’s role will change over time in the Experiment section of the booth.
But the rubber meets the road in the Pilot section. Fuser Derrick Peña was showcasing the lab’s InPower™ Wellness System medication adherence solution, currently being piloted in the Columbus, Ohio area. The pilot, which is set to last six months, has brought the InPower medication dispenser that reminds patients when it’s time to take their medication, walking them through the process to monitor adherence,into the homes of patients with diabetes. The device pairs with a blood glucose monitor, sending the patient’s pharmacist real-time data on both adherence and blood glucose levels.
“There are probably a dozen actual devices and 100 or so mobile apps addressing adherence, but our hypothesis is that with those, the burden is still on the patient,” Peña said. “We want to completely remove that burden from the patient.”
The participating pharmacies fill a patient’s medications in pods that have an RFID tag built in, which is then scanned by the InPower device, removing the need for patients to manually tell the device what medications they take and when. With regard to their blood-glucose monitoring, patients no longer need to keep a physical log.
The potential that it is showing already – just with a glucometer – has Peña contemplating how InPower could help patients in other disease states. And Peña said that stories he has heard from the trial have reinforced the potential that InPower has to improve health outcomes for patients who use it.
“We had a patient in our recent trial who started, was relatively adherent, but then the pharmacist noticed a drop-off in adherence in her scores,” he said. “The pharmacist proactively reached out to the patient, had a conversation, figured some things out and within a few days we saw her adherence rise back to where it should be. To see that is really why we’re doing this — to see that value created, especially from the pharmacist to a patient.”
In addition to providing an opportunity to showcase InPower’s potential, Olesnanik said that RBC 2017 also provided an opportunity to hear from Cardinal Health customers about what might improve their workflow. She said that at RBC 2016, attendees suggested the need for an easier way of dispensing drugs with the InPower pods, which led them to develop the PodPal integrated RFID writer/read and scale.
“This is a great opportunity in all of these areas to get that customer interaction, listen to what they’re saying and help it guide all of the solutions that we’re creating,” she said.
Photos courtesy of Alabastro Photography