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Ed session helps retailers ‘get the point’ of travel vaccinations

BY Alaric DeArment

DENVER — One of the biggest trends in the pharmacy-retail industry is the expansion of services on offer, ranging from health screenings to medication therapy management to vaccinations and immunizations.

On the last point, this usually means routine vaccinations, but for a growing number of pharmacy retailers, it also means immunizing travelers against diseases they may risk acquiring while abroad, such as hepatitis A and B, yellow fever and others. Seattle-based regional chain Bartell Drugs has offered comprehensive travel clinics at several of its stores for a few years now, and other retailers are doing the same. But an education session on Sunday morning at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores’ Pharmacy & Technology Conference in Denver presented some of the opportunities and challenges involved in travel medicine.

Travel medicine requires expertise on a number of subjects, such as patient education, immunization and pharmacology. “These are things pharmacists are already very skilled at or can easily become skilled at,” the session’s presenter, University of Southern California pharmacy professor Jeff Goad said. Vaccines are only part of it, he said.

Pharmacy retailers looking to get involved with travel medicine should also consider carrying products travelers will need, particularly if they’re going to developing countries. These include water purification tablets, mosquito nets and insect repellents. In addition, pharmacists consulting prospective travelers should know ways to deal with non-infectious conditions like jet lag and altitude sickness.

Travel medicine requires some investment on the part of the retailer, such as setting aside an area to provide services, necessary education for the pharmacist and stocking up on travel-related products, Goad said, as well as collaborative practice agreements with physicians that may be needed for certain vaccinations and medications, travel medicine software and, in many states, a special stamp that certifies a pharmacy for delivering yellow fever vaccinations.
 

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Wasson rallies NACDS attendees with ‘Push-Pull’ theory for advancement of pharmacy

BY Alaric DeArment

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.
 

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Walgreens’ A-Team transforming pharmacy retail on multiple fronts

BY Michael Johnsen

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — Man, you gotta love it when a plan comes together. In the past week, two stories broke that will help position Walgreens at the top of their A-game. One is the announcement of Walgreens’ entree into the loyalty card arena in just a few short weeks; the other is a huge technology news of Walgreens’ rollout of an electronic health record across the company’s entire platform. And all this not too long after announcing a blockbuster partnership with Alliance Boots and not too long before Walgreens rejoins the Express Scripts pharmacy network.

(THE NEWS: Study: Walgreens weeks away from entering the loyalty program market with Balance Rewards. For the full story, click here.)

It’s actually a little hard to discern which of these stories is the bigger deal. The card is about customer experience and engagement; the EHR is about expanding the role of community pharmacy.

And they’re both about improving health outcomes.

In addition to rewarding shopping behavior, Balance Rewards has a strong better-health component, such as its link to the company’s Walk with Walgreens program. And EHR will help Walgreens’ health practitioners better manage a patient’s condition.

These initiatives will enable two out of Walgreens’ five key strategic goals. How, you ask? Well, you’ll just have to tune into the next issue of DSN. DSN will examine every aspect of Walgreens in our exclusive, in-depth Sept. 24 report on the company and how it is transforming every aspect of its business — from the back end to the back bench; and from customers and patients to employers and payers. It’ll be a "can’t-miss" event.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments below.

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