THE CLINICS: Helping ‘Take Care’ of primary care shortage
With pharmaceutical and healthcare expenditures on the rise, a primary care shortage at hand and an expected upswing in patients diagnosed with chronic diseases, there’s no denying that the marketplace is in the midst of an evolution. Despite the challenges, Walgreens’ health-and-wellness division has positioned itself for such changes and, according to headquarter executives, has a winning strategy in place — broadening and deepening its payer relationships.
“One area that payer communities all have in common is the need to measure, deliver and improve outcomes, which encompass providing accessible, high-quality care at reduced costs,” Hal Rosenbluth, SVP and president of Walgreens Health and Wellness, told analysts during a presentation in late 2010. “If done properly, this will provide for a happier, more productive and healthier work force and member community.”
Walgreens defines payer communities as employers, health plans, health systems, PBMs, government and individual and small businesses. With about 360 retail-based Take Care Clinics stretched across 19 states, and some 368 employer-based health, pharmacy and fitness centers nationwide, Walgreens Health and Wellness offers an expanded scope of services that it says provide a solution to part — if not all — of the needs of different payer groups.
“Whether by helping hospitals reduce the cost of readmission, assisting employers in reducing pharmacy spend or providing greater access to specialty drugs and healthcare services, Walgreens has the solutions payers need for their constituents, whether at work, in their neighborhood or at home,” Rosenbluth said.
One example of this: Harrah’s Showboat casino in Atlantic City, N.J. The casino’s on-site Health and Wellness Center, operated by Walgreens’ Take Care Health Systems employer services group, opened in 2005. During its first year of operation, the facility was seeing about 26 patients a day, Emily Gaines, VP compensation, benefits and HRSS for Harrah’s Entertainment, told Drug Store News. By 2010, the center was seeing an average of 65 patients a day and was up to about 17,000 visits a year out of the facility.
Health systems also are facing their share of challenges, as many will be judged and, in some cases, reimbursed based on patient satisfaction, outcomes and the pooling of resources. Rosenbluth noted that, again, this is where Walgreens can step in. “Not a week goes by where we are not approached or approaching hospital systems with solutions, including our hospital on-site pharmacy, in-store Take Care Clinics, infusion centers, home care services and medication fulfillment choices to aid in their own micro-healthcare ecosystems,” Rosenbluth said. “As you can see by now, this is thematic in our approach to the needs of the healthcare marketplace. By helping others we, in turn, are helping ourselves.”
To better address the unique needs of each payer segment —whether it be employers, health systems, health plans, PBMs, government or individual and small businesses — Walgreens Health and Wellness recently revamped its sales and account management organization to better focus on bringing all of Walgreens’ healthcare assets to market. The revamped sales team is comprised of sales and client service executives with experience across all of the payer segments.
“Our approach is to bring all of Walgreens’ asset solutions to each segment, whether online, offline or in person,” Rosenbluth said. “Each payer has a unique set of capabilities and, combined with our solution set, they can each now go to market with a differentiated offering and, in turn, become an additional sales channel for Walgreens’ products and services. … Now, rather than primarily being a provider of pharmacy benefit services, we have developed a much broader set of strategic and consultative relationships in the marketplace.”
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The vision: Walgreens wants to ‘own well’
Talk about a bold retail vision. Walgreens president and CEO Greg Wasson said the nation’s top pharmacy retailer wants nothing less than to “own well.”
He’s serious. Owning “well” — or, put another way, becoming the nation’s top retail resource for pharmacy and health-and-wellness services and products — is the kind of declaration few retail pharmacy executives would dare utter. But Wasson isn’t running just any drug store chain. He’s in charge of a re-engineered, 110-year-old retail pharmacy and health behemoth with more than 8,000 “points of care” around the United States, a clearly revitalized mission and store base, and a driving goal: to become the nation’s first fully integrated, nationwide provider of products and services for health, wellness and everyday needs.
At Walgreens’ annual meeting in January, Wasson and other top leaders laid out their vision for a company nearing the culmination point of a massive, two-year transformation. Walgreens, Wasson told shareholders, aims to be nothing less than the “first choice for health and daily living needs … [for] everyone in America.”
It’s a far cry from the stick-to-the-retail-basics “hedgehog” strategy that defined the company for decades, and it’s as bold an assertion as declaring that the company wants to “own well.” But Walgreens has spent decades and poured billions into its pursuit of coast-to-coast market penetration, and more recently into creating a formidable presence within the U.S. workplace. “We are on the front lines of health care with [more than] 70,000 healthcare service providers and growing,” Wasson said. “We have [more than] 8,000 points of care across the country. What we are building is the most complete national network of integrated healthcare providers and locations in the country.”
If Walgreens can achieve a true integration of all those providers and locations, it will wield a powerful arsenal. Decades of aggressive organic store growth — supplemented by a series of savvy acquisitions targeting the best regional chains — have given the company a dense network of 7,670 drug stores operating in all 50 states and Puerto Rico, at least one of which is within 3 miles of more than 6-of-every-10 Americans. What’s more, the chain has paid dearly to put its stores on “the best retail corners in America,” to quote chairman Alan McNally, making Walgreens “No. 1 or 2 in 215 markets across the country,” McNally added.
The network also includes more than 100 Walgreens pharmacies in hospitals and community care centers; some 350 in-store Take Care Clinics with an expanding menu of ambulatory care services; a powerful presence in specialty pharmacy, oncology, home infusion and other high-touch medical services; and more than 380 clinics operating within the employee workplace, some 40 of which include pharmacies.
Combine that unrivaled retail health presence with the ongoing revolution occurring at the front end of the stores as Walgreens pursues its Customer Centric Retailing initiative, and you have a company poised, in Wasson’s words, to exploit “the convergence of two great industries, retail and health care. Frankly, that trend is good for us, because we are located right at the intersection of retail and health care,” he said.
It’s no accident that more of the nation’s frayed healthcare system is moving into the retail space. Roiled by reform and hammered by unsustainable cost increases for health delivery, a growing shortage of primary care physicians and a funding crisis in state and federal coffers, the health system is turning increasingly to such lower-cost, patient-accessible providers as pharmacists and clinic-based nurse practitioners for front-line care.
Walgreens has transformed itself to align with that titanic shift. Its Power initiative to centralize dispensing functions and other efforts is aimed at freeing its pharmacists for more patient care and medication therapy management activities, and the chain has become the nation’s top nongovernment provider of flu immunizations.
With that realignment has come a reordering of priorities. Walgreens has cut its annual store-expansion rate to about 3%, from a peak of roughly 9% in fiscal 2008, and is “focused on making the 7,600 stores we already have more valuable, productive and relevant to customers and patients in satisfying more and more of their health and daily living needs,” according to McNally.
The effort has borne fruit. In line with efforts to make its stores and merchandise mix more productive, the company has whacked expenses and moved back into record-setting sales and earnings territory.
Given Walgreens’ recent strong earnings momentum and same-store sales growth, Wall Street has applauded the shift, although one retail analyst, Jack Russo of Edward Jones and Co., warned that Walgreens already has “over-saturated the U.S. marketplace” with its once-torrid store-construction program. More typical of recent comments is that of Meredith Adler of Barclays Capital, who noted that Walgreens is doing “a very good job” of managing its expenses and showing “a discipline about pretty much everything [it does] that was not there before” as the company cuts back on profit-draining promotions and progresses on its billion-dollar inventory-reduction campaign.
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Walgreens might want to stop selling cigarettes in that case.
Savient announces executive appointments
EAST BRUNSWICK, N.J. — Savient Pharmaceuticals announced changes to its management team as it gears up for the commercial launch of its chronic gout treatment.
The drug maker appointed Louis Ferrari as its SVP corporate development, Christine Mikail as SVP and Stephen Davies as chief information officer and group VP.
Savient said the new additions to its executive team will strengthen the company as it globally launches Krystexxa (pegloticase), which received regulatory approval from the Food and Drug Administration last September as a chronic gout treatment for adult patients refractory to conventional therapy.
Louis Ferrari, a pharmaceutical industry veteran, joins Savient from Centocor Ortho Biotech, where he served as VP oncology and nephrology, sales and marketing, responsible for sales of Procrit and Doxil. At Savient, he will be responsible for all commercial activities in North America.
Christine Mikail, who served as VP, general counsel and secretary for ImClone Systems, will be responsible for all of Savient’s business development activities and strategic planning, including the initiative to launch Krystexxa globally.
Stephen Davies served as VP information technology at ImClone Systems before joining Savient, where he was responsible for developing an IT approach to enable international expansion and improved infrastructure security. In his role at Savient, Davies will be responsible for building all global information systems support for the Krystexxa launch.
All three executives will report to Savient CEO John Johnson, who recently joined the company from Eli Lilly, where he was president of its oncology unit.
"We are pleased to welcome Louis, Christine and Stephen to Savient," Johnson said. "This is an exciting time for Savient, and these are three key additions that will help make for a successful commercial launch of Krystexxa. Today’s appointments will augment our already strong team of talented executives and employees, all of whom are committed to bringing this life-changing therapy to adult patients suffering from chronic gout refractory to conventional therapy. I look forward to working closely with Louis, Christine and Stephen and the entire Savient team as we embark on this next phase in Savient’s history."
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