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Crossing the ‘retailization’ threshold

BY Jim Frederick

The U.S. healthcare system’s steady migration beyond the exclusive terrain of the physician practices, professional clinics and hospitals — and into the far more accessible and more cost-conscious world of retail pharmacy and health — continues to accelerate. The shift is dramatically expanding access to health services for millions of patients — many of them uninsured or underinsured — and elevating the status of retail clinicians and community pharmacists.

Insurers and health-plan payers, desperate to scrounge up new ways to cut skyrocketing health costs for their members, are eagerly encouraging the healthcare "retailization" trend. Patients are, too. Tens of millions of Americans now embrace the convenience of walking into an in-store clinic or pharmacy, sans appointment, for treatment of their minor emergencies or ailments by a nurse practitioner or the advice and preventive care of a pharmacist.

Among the big insurers now driving the trend: Independence Blue Cross of Pennsylvania, which last week announced that it has expanded its members’ access to care by adding coverage for treatment at urgent care centers and retail clinics. The plan even rolled out a new online tool to help its members locate the nearest retail clinic.

IBC CEO and president Daniel Hilferty is fully cognizant of the benefits that come with the expanded treatment option, both for patients and for Blue Cross. For members, coverage of visits to retail clinics and urgent care centers expands access to care "so members can get care when they need it the most, along with the tools and information to make wise healthcare decisions.” It also helps keep those members out of “busy, more costly emergency rooms," he said, saving the insurer big bucks.

It’s a tangible benefit. As Drug Store News senior editor Antoinette Alexander points out, nearly 1-in-5 visits to hospital emergency departments in this country "could potentially be treated at retail based health clinics or urgent care centers for an estimated savings to consumers of $4.4 billion," according to a 2010 study from the RAND Corp.

I think those estimates are conservative. Why? Because, like pharmacists, the nurse practitioners and physicians’ assistants who staff those retail clinics have heretofore been constrained in the scope of services they can offer in most states. That’s changing as more and more states, such as Massachusetts — and more and more payers and other healthcare stakeholders — recognize the need for cost-saving alternatives to ERs and doctor’s offices for routine care, and as both pharmacists and retail clinicians are given the tools and regulatory clearance to begin practicing "at the top of their profession," to quote one pharmacy leader at Walgreens.

How far pharmacy and the retail clinic industry can evolve and gain stature among the professional care pantheon is anybody’s guess, but a lot will depend on pharmacy benefit managers, payers and insurers, such as Blue Cross. What’s your take on it? Click on the link below to share your thoughts.

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Samford University pharmacy school gets CMS nursing home grant

BY Alaric DeArment

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — A pharmacy school in Alabama is getting a grant for a program designed to reduce hospitalizations among nursing home residents.

Samford University announced that its McWhorter School of Pharmacy would receive $865,568 from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to improve quality of care among Medicare-Medicaid dual enrollees in the state’s 23 nursing homes, part of a program led by the Alabama Quality Assurance Foundation. The AQAF is one of seven organizations around the country working with the CMS to improve care quality at 145 nursing homes around the country.

In Alabama, the Samford University pharmacy school and nine other health care-related partners will provide enhanced, on-site services and support for nursing home residents, which are in 14 counties in the central and north-central regions of the state. The services include evidence-based decision support and education for healthcare providers on rational use of medications from pharmacists at the university’s Global Drug Information Service.

"The pharmacists will implement quality improvement projects to reduce the risk of adverse events and avoidable hospitalizations related to use of high-risk medications," GDIS director Maisha Kelly Freeman said. "They will also provide continuing education seminars on the appropriate use of medications, facilitate training sessions with nursing personnel and evaluate the success of the education initiative."

Most nursing home residents are enrolled in Medicare, and nearly two-thirds are enrolled in Medicaid. According to research, about 45% of hospitalizations among dual enrollees, costing about $7-8 billion in 2011, could be avoided.


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Safeway HR head earns industry recognition

BY Michael Johnsen

PLEASANTON, Calif. — Safeway on Monday announced that Russ Jackson, Safeway SVP human resources, has been named by Human Resource Executive magazine to the influential 2012 HR Honor Roll. Jackson will be recognized by the publication on Oct. 9 at a black tie awards dinner at the University Club of Chicago.

Human Resource Executive selected Jackson and four other human resources professionals to recognize and feature in the October issue. Each was chosen for their problem-solving skills, positive impact on their organization and contributions to the profession at large.

"Russ is a transformational architect within Safeway," stated Safeway EVP Larree Renda. "With his vision, insight and drive for results, he has built a human resources organization that is a powerful accelerator of change."

Among his accomplishments at Safeway, Jackson has been instrumental in strengthening the company’s leadership development efforts. For example, in 2011 the company launched a program which provides high-potential and high-performing directors and district managers with VP-level experiences and instruction. Human Resource Executive noted that Jackson also "implemented a series of new programs aimed at recruiting ex-military personnel for key roles; reshaped the organization’s competency model; and enhanced the organization’s already highly regarded health initiatives."

Elevating the company’s efforts to support veterans, Jackson launched an initiative aimed at recruiting and developing former junior military officers for retail store management positions. Since the program launched in 2010, the company surpassed its goal of hiring more than 1,000 ex-military personnel by the end of 2012.

Jackson and his benefits team have also made significant strides in the area of employee health and wellness.  Employees at all levels are encouraged to participate in a range of programs from biometric testing to other wellness initiatives designed to help employees and their families make healthier choices.

Jackson joined Safeway in 2007 after a 27-year career with Pacific Gas & Electric, where he served as SVP human resources. He holds a Business degree from San Jose State University, earned his MBA from St. Mary’s College and a Master’s degree in human resources and organizational development from the University of San Francisco, along with a certificate in Human Resources Management from the University of California at Berkeley. He has also achieved the designation of SPHR (Senior Professional in Human Resources) from the Human Resources Certification Institute.

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