Hy-Vee makes a big deal of health with increased diabetes focus
WEST DES MOINES, Iowa —A lot of things in the Midwest are bigger than in other parts of the country. And that includes retail. Hy-Vee, whose 227 stores average 70,000 sq. ft. and can get up to 80,000 sq. ft., also makes a big deal out of promoting health and wellness.
In January 2009, the chain became one of the first users of the NuVal nutritional scoring system. Developed by Topco Associates and Griffin Hospital in Derby, Conn., and also used by mass-merchandise chain Meijer and Northeastern supermarket chain Price Chopper, the system gives food items a score of 1 to 100 based on nutritional content. “It takes the guesswork out of nutritional labeling for our customers,” Hy-Vee assistant VP health and wellness Helen Eddy told Drug Store News. For Hy-Vee, it’s part of its effort to tie together nutrition and overall health through its pharmacies.
Pharmacists at four Hy-Vee stores lead special diabetes education programs, certified by Iowa’s state public health department. Three of the pharmacies offer education on insulin pumps, which patients with Type 1 diabetes often use to provide a steady supply of insulin rather than taking multiple shots per day. “There’s some pretty intense education that needs to go with that,” Eddy said.
BY THE NUMBERS
|No. of stores||228|
|Stores with Rx||225|
Hy-Vee patients also can talk to one of its 135 in-store dieticians. The dieticians provide one-on-one counseling for patients with such metabolic diseases as diabetes and Celiac disease, as well as supermarket tours that take customers through the aisles and show them how to read food labels. Other resources include the Hy-Vee Health Market, a special section that stocks natural and organic foods, including bulk items, and the Hy-Vee Club Room, an educational space with a full kitchen that can hold 40 to 50 people and is used for demonstrations.
“You could be doing osteoporosis screenings, go beyond just giving [customers] a number?” Eddy said. One way the chain employs is offering them information about foods that strengthen bones.
The flu season—not to mention the pandemic H1N1 flu—also gives Hy-Vee the opportunity to tie in its pharmacy and food businesses. According to health experts, a number of foods—such as bell peppers and citrus fruits, which contain high amounts of vitamin C, and sweet potatoes, which are rich in respiratory infection-fighting beta-carotene—can help ward off the flu by boosting the immune system. “Many of the dieticians have information about flu-fighting foods and ways to boost immunity and stay healthy,” Eddy said.
Hy-Vee’s promotion of health and wellness extends beyond the store walls. In October 2009, the company joined the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, a coalition of 40 retailers, food and beverage manufacturers, and nonprofit organizations with the goal of reducing obesity—particularly childhood obesity—by 2015 through an “energy balance” approach that emphasizes healthy eating and physical activity.
The effort will focus on reaching consumers through changes in products, packaging, labeling and promotional materials to help consumers manage their caloric intake and choose healthier foods. The effort also will create employer-based programs to promote healthy weight, and programs in schools in various metropolitan areas to help children ages 6 to 11 years develop healthy eating and exercise habits.
Walgreens taps veteran to head CCR
NEW YORK In a high-stakes campaign to fire up its front-end appeal, reaffirm its relationship with America’s consumers and rejuvenate its same-store sales, Walgreens has gone to its bench.
Walgreens has named one of its veteran operations people, Mike Arnoult, to the key post of VP in charge of Customer Centric Retailing. Until last month, the post was held by Chong Bang, who left the company in mid-December to oversee merchandising at Toronto-based Shoppers Drug Mart.
Unlike Bang, Arnoult is more a seasoned operations manager than a merchant. His appointment is a clear sign that Walgreens has moved beyond the conceptual and launch phase of CCR, and is ready to begin the next phase of the massive project: the expansion of a CCR-based store design across Walgreens’ coast-to-coast network of 7,147 drug stores.
Nevertheless, Arnoult inherits a critical challenge at the retail behemoth. CCR encompasses Walgreens’ massive effort to pull together a sprawling marketing and merchandising operation and focus its efforts more sharply on meeting and anticipating customer demands. Within two or three years, it will transform the chain’s front-end presentation and go-to-market strategy coast-to-coast with a leaner, more condensed merchandise mix; a sharper focus on health, wellness and patient education in the aisles; improved departmental adjacencies and signing; and — Walgreens merchants hope — a better overall shopping experience.
Bang took CCR all the way from conception to realization, streamlining assortments, cutting hundreds of redundant SKUs, and applying new rationale to categories, adjacencies and promotional strategy at the front end. He also oversaw the test and launch of a new Walgreens store prototype, based on CCR principles and a better read of consumer needs.
Arnoult will now take the CCR rollout from a 400-store pilot in Texas to nationwide completion. Given the chain’s aggressive plans for 2010 — nearly 3,000 stores scheduled for a CCR redesign by the end of the year — he’ll need to bring all his proven management skills to bear to coordinate local-market remodeling activities with Walgreens’ operations and merchandising teams.
“We’re evaluating the findings from the Texas stores and doing some tweaking,” company spokesperson Tiffani Washington told Drug Store News in December. “We’ll continue the rollout [of the CCR-based store overhaul program] starting in January.”
Arnoult brings to his task a strong resume in store, district and regional management. His 20-year career at Walgreens includes stints as store manager, district manager and store operations VP, followed by a year as head of online merchandising. He’s a 1990 graduate of Marquette University with a B.A. in communications.
“His ability to build relationships and collaborate across the organization will be invaluable,” Walgreens asserted.
Bartell to cease filling Medicaid prescriptions at 15 locations
NEW YORK The Medicaid storm is still intense in Washington as Bartell Drugs has announced that — as of Feb. 1 — it will no longer fill Medicaid prescriptions at 15 of its 57 stores. Limiting access to pharmacies with its payment cuts could spell an increase in other healthcare costs — costs that represent the majority of health expenditures.
As stated in the article, the decision stems from a court decision in Massachusetts in September 2009 that reduced the industry pricing standard.
Bartell stated that — unlike most other insurance providers, including other states — the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services has made no effort to offset this significant reduction, resulting in sizeable reductions in payments to pharmacies.
The intent, according to Bartell, is to return to the established level of compensation prior to the Sept. 26, 2009, court action. As it currently stands, Bartell simply can’t afford to fill the Medicaid prescriptions.
While Bartell currently is the only pharmacy retailer to take such action, it certainly isn’t alone in the battle.
In March 2009, Walgreens threatened to stop serving Medicaid patients in 44 of its stores in the state. The company at that time stated that it operates 111 pharmacies throughout the state, but the 44 pharmacies in question represented more than 60% of its total Medicaid business in the state. However, in May 2009, Walgreens stated that it would continue to serve Medicaid patients when the state agreed to make smaller cuts than it had planned.
But will the court decision in Massachusetts now prompt other pharmacies to follow in Bartell’s footsteps? Perhaps, but if you ask Doug Porter, the state’s director of Medicaid, he will likely say no. In a recent Seattle Times article, Porter was quoted as saying that Medicaid recipients should not worry about other companies following suit and he is “convinced pharmacies can weather this change.” As reported by the Seattle Times, several pharmacies and industry trade groups filed suit in U.S. District Court in Seattle trying to force the state to return its reimbursement rates to those it was paying before the Massachusetts settlement. A hearing is scheduled for Jan. 15.
Last year, the pharmacy groups filed another lawsuit, after an earlier attempt by the state to cut its reimbursement rates. That suit was withdrawn when the state agreed to make smaller cuts than it had planned.
“We are deeply concerned about the health of our patients. Pharmacists are on the front lines of our healthcare system protecting patients by ensuring safe and appropriate medication use. Commercial healthcare payers and Medicaid programs in some states have already adjusted pharmacy reimbursement necessary to maintain patient access to the essential care provided by pharmacies. If Washington Medicaid does not do the same, it can result in reduced access to medicine for our neediest and most vulnerable patients ultimately leading to expensive emergency room visits and hospitalizations,” stated Jeff Rochon, Pharm.D., CEO, Washington State Pharmacy Association, in an NACDS press statement issued in September.