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Cardinal Health Foundation addresses Rx misuse through latest series of Generation Rx grants

BY Michael Johnsen

Generation Rx – Mission Video from Generation Rx on Vimeo.

DUBLIN, Ohio – Non-profit organizations across the country were awarded grants Wednesday from the Cardinal Health Foundation to help fight prescription drug misuse by improving their communities' medication disposal programs.

"One of the simplest and most effective ways to fight prescription drug misuse is to encourage the proper disposal of unused or expired medication," stated Betsy Walker, community relations director and Generation Rx program manager at Cardinal Health. "Cardinal Health Foundation is investing $360,000 to support these programs and help educate on proper disposal."

With grant funding from the Generation Rx program, grantees will work to increase awareness of their communities' drug disposal programs, and increase the participation of community members in the programs.

All recipients proposed collaborative programs that partner with other organizations in their communities, and engage pharmacists or student pharmacists. "Pharmacists play a powerful role in fighting prescription drug misuse by educating their communities about how to use medications safely," Walker said.

Youth are also involved with each grantee's project; according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, youth who learn about the risks of prescription drug misuse are up to 50% less likely to ever misuse prescription drugs. Young people also help influence their parents to properly dispose of unused or expired medications.

Some of the programs will specifically target young people with educational messages, while others will engage young students in creating educational messages for their peers. Another grantee will train high school students to teach elementary students about the dangers of prescription drug misuse.

All grant projects are required to measure impact and outcomes of the disposal program's promotion efforts and education efforts (comparing community participation in drug disposal before and after program implementation, for example). In addition, each grantee is charged with seeking opportunities, if available, for scaling up and spreading successful programs to other communities.

Grantees will report on the results of their grant initiatives in the summer of 2017.

Since 2009, the Cardinal Health Foundation has invested over $5 million in partnerships and grants across the country to raise awareness and knowledge about the dangers of prescription drug misuse through the Generation Rx program.
 

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ThoughtSpot 2016 showcases the latest in technology

BY Michael Johnsen

New to ThoughtSpot this year was an Innovation & Technology Showcase, an exciting extension of the trade show floor. The showcase was dedicated to prototypes, products and services that were both innovative and technology-based, including a preview of ABC Order that took center stage within the showcase. Accompanying the showcase were Solution Spotlight Presentations, education sessions in which many vendors showcased the benefits of services like medication therapy management and medication synchronization. Altogether, the showcase and presentations firmly place AmerisourceBergen’s independent pharmacy operators at the cutting-edge of pharmacy practice.

“I was there when [the Innovation & Technology Showcase] opened because I was getting a preview of all the different offerings we had,” Steve Collis, AmerisourceBergen Chairman, President and CEO, told analysts during a conference call in August. “We had this virtual-reality-experience-type encounter where we showed the history, but also what the future of pharmacy could be like. There were just lines to see that,” he said. “We’re getting into a more digitally enabled Good Neighbor Pharmacy-type environment.”

These kind of best-in-class technological advancements will help AmerisourceBergen’s independent partners continue to focus on the patient service elements of pharmacy that earned Good Neighbor Pharmacy the J.D. Power distinction, “Highest in Customer Satisfaction.” “We're really proud of where we’re moving the technology for our customers,” Collis added.

Center stage at the new Innovation & Technology Showcase was ABC Order, a new ordering platform developed by pharmacists for pharmacists. Officially making its debut in 2017, the platform has been engineered to fit within the pharmacy workflow to enable effortless ordering, smarter inventory control, quicker access to data and simple issue resolution. For example, in developing ABC Order, AmerisourceBergen found that many pharmacy operators were leaving hand-written notes on shelves reminding them to check on the shelf below for additional inventory. So, the developers of ABC Order incorporated both a note feature and a calendar feature that allow pharmacists to enter those notes digitally and recall those reminders whenever that particular medicine is re-ordered.

And the platform build isn’t static like many systems in the past — it can be updated on an ongoing basis much like apps for a smartphone. “We’ve used an agile methodology for this build, so we tweak as we go,” Kathie Manning, Group Vice President of Customer Solutions and Support at AmerisourceBergen, told Drug Store News in an exclusive interview. She noted that there were already some changes to be incorporated into ABC Order before going live in 2017 based on some initial feedback on the show floor.

Nearby, ThoughtSpot attendees were able to learn more about virtual reality and Amazon Echo. Using inexpensive smart glasses combined with a smartphone, AmerisourceBergen was able to take participants on a virtual reality tour of the three finalists for Good Neighbor Pharmacy’s Pharmacy of the Year award. In the future, AmerisourceBergen and Good Neighbor Pharmacy anticipate using those glasses to allow store owners to preview new store configurations and remodeling scenarios. In addition, they could be used for patient education and product demonstrations.

And the Innovation & Technology Showcase also featured a prototype Amazon Echo that today can connect patients to their nearest Good Neighbor Pharmacy and get store hours. In the near future, Good Neighbor Pharmacy expects to be one of the first pharmacy operations to enable patients who own an Echo to submit prescription refills on the platform. For pharmacy operators, an in-store Echo may enable them to order product.
Other innovations surrounding the ABC Order hub included the debut of the Good Neighbor Pharmacy mobile app for Apple Watch, where users can refill prescriptions, receive medication reminders and check medication adherence.

The education sessions featured as part of the Solution Spotlight Presentations included best practices for medication therapy management and medication synchronization programs to manage adherence and patient communications, and work with Medicare.

“Ultimately medication synchronization is a new system of controlling a process for practical purposes,” Jason Turner, owner of Moundsville Pharmacy in Moundsville, W.V., told Solution Spotlight attendees. “I’m here to help you develop a vision for your pharmacy, for your future, as far as how medication synchronization impacts [your workflow], and how you can develop your workflow around medication synchronization.” Turner suggested the goal for pharmacies incorporating a med-sync program would be to reach 50% of their prescription volume on the program to best realize workflow synergies and optimize inventory management.

In addition, partners of AmerisourceBergen’s pharmacy services administrative organization, Elevate Provider Network, implemented technology solutions to support reimbursement discussions with payers, and improve medication therapy management, adherence and reimbursement. The sessions were oftentimes standing-room only as AmerisourceBergen’s independent partners soaked up the latest in patient service technology.

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Selective access: Elevate Provider Network selects the right preferred networks

BY David Salazar

Above: Elevate Provider Network Vice President Peter Kounelis and Managed Care Director Rick McKaig present the continuing education session “The Motive Behind the Madness: Managing Drug Spend and Trend” at Good Neighbor Pharmacy ThoughtSpot 2016.

As reimbursements and profit margins in independent pharmacies shrink, one of the main ways pharmacy services administrative organizations (PSAO) have sought to help their pharmacy partners provide better health outcomes to their patients, while ensuring pharmacies are reimbursed for their services, is through participation in preferred cost-sharing networks.  

But, not all preferred networks are created equal, according to AmerisourceBergen Vice President of Elevate Provider Network Peter Kounelis, and the networks that PSAOs participate in can have a real impact on their members’ ability to provide better outcomes.

At Good Neighbor Pharmacy’s ThoughtSpot 2016, Kounelis told Drug Store News that, while other PSAOs take an approach that encourages participation in every preferred network, Elevate Provider Network takes a more measured approach because it has the pharmacists — and patient care they need to provide — in mind.

Conversations about preferred networks tend to revolve around access to patients, and the potential loss of business that would result in not participating in a particular preferred network. But according to Kounelis — who also helped lead a continuing education session alongside Elevate Provider Network’s Managed Care Director Rick McKaig about preferred networks and reimbursement — to say participation in preferred networks is the only way some pharmacies can have access to patients is to ignore the role patient care can play in retaining customers.

“What a lot of our competitors have done is conflate the notion of access to patients with participation in a preferred cost-share network,” Kounelis said. “[But] access to patients remains no matter what — it’s just a question of incentives and disincentives provided to patients to either remain or switch pharmacies. If you're doing all the right things — including taking the time to counsel your patients, improve their adherence and answer all their questions — it would be infinitely more difficult for a co-pay incentive to get them to leave your pharmacy. … Being in every preferred network would, at some point, rob the pharmacist of the resources, the time and the ability to take care of the patients they currently treat.”

Elevate Provider Network’s focus on ensuring its 4,500 pharmacy members are able to provide the best care for their patients is what informs the PSAO when it assesses whether it will participate in a preferred network. Armed with the claim-level data that drives Elevate Provider Network, Kounelis said his team looks at plans holistically — from DIR fees to generic effective rate, and from average wholesale price discount rates to dispensing fees — because it’s a process that pharmacists and their patients can’t afford to have working to their disadvantage.

“It’s a strategy that’s essentially a risk — a gamble so to speak,” Kounelis said. “You’re betting that the concessions you’re giving to participate in some of these networks will be at least offset by the incremental patients and prescription volume that comes to your store, and when it isn’t, essentially you’ve lost the bet.”

Instead of choosing to bet on every preferred network, Elevate Provider Network is choosing to bet on its member pharmacies’ ability to provide exceptional patient care while participating in plans that will allow the patient care that differentiates independent pharmacies.

“The independent pharmacy is a business. They offer valuable services, and they should be compensated according to the overall healthcare value that they deliver,” Kounelis said. “We believe our strategy differentiates and points to the independent pharmacy to play on their strengths where they have the biggest ability to deliver value to the healthcare system by improving the lives of their patients.”

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