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Journalists mull pharmacy’s role as health care demands new ideas

BY Jim Frederick

LAS VEGAS — An overwrought U.S. healthcare system in desperate need of new solutions and new ways to cut the unsustainable cost spiral will demand a new, more engaged and more patient-centered role for community pharmacists.

That was the conclusion of three leading pharmacy journalists who engaged in a lively discussion of pharmacy’s changing role as patients, payers and health providers all scramble to adapt to a healthcare system in the throes of massive change, with or without the Obama administration’s health-reform plan. In a panel discussion held at the ideaShare Broadcast Center on the trade floor at the McKesson conference, the three industry experts agreed that community pharmacists must continue to expand their roles as accessible neighborhood health providers. To thrive, they said, pharmacists must provide immunizations, disease management, wellness counseling and other vitally needed services, as a cost-effective and highly skilled adjunct to physicians and other members of the nation’s overstretched health care network.

With the business of dispensing prescription medicines “becoming more and more commoditized” and patients in greater need of accessible health professionals and clinical services, “you really need to stand for more than just a place to fill a script,” said Rob Eder, editor in chief of Drug Store News. And although chains are “slightly outperforming independents” in sales and profitability, he said, “the independents clearly have an opportunity … with the emphasis on service."

“It’s not just the ability to fill that script. It’s the ability to keep that patient on a regimen, keep them compliant, and make sure they’re on a healthy lifestyle,” Eder noted.

The retail pharmacy business, agreed Jeff Woldt, editorial director of Chain Drug Review, is “still pretty much tied to product, but for pharmacies to continue to flourish, they’ll need to make that transition to a service-based model. If community pharmacy doesn’t evolve, it’s going to be left behind.”

Will Lockwood, editor of Computer Talk for Pharmacists, noted that the growing need for more accessible clinical services is creating “great opportunities for pharmacists on the smaller, community pharmacy side for services like wound care and compression therapy.

Kevin Kettler, SVP marketing for McKesson Pharmaceutical, moderated the discussion. Noting the rapid pace of change in health care and its impact on pharmacy, he praised the ability of independents to adapt to their markets and provide what patients and customers are looking for in an uncertain era.

“In the old days of retail, you sold a lot of stuff to a lot of people and you made a lot of money. But the realities are changing,” added Eder. Now, he said, “the new rules are that you specialize … and you target a select group of consumers” with services and products. “You become an indispensable part of their lives.”

For instance, he said, “There’s a huge opportunity [dealing with] obesity in America for the community pharmacist, and weight management is a relatively easy program to put together.”

“The future is going to be about outcomes,” added Eder. “It’s not going to be about how many scripts you can fill. It’s going to be about how many patients’ lives you can improve. And that’s going to dictate whether or not you’re in the network … and how healthy your pharmacy business is going to be.”

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P.ANDERSON says:
Jun-20-2013 06:30 am

We have found several changes in American health care system and these are quite possible through the help of various desperate solutions such as quality health care service through the help of quality health care centers; emergency room and urgent care center in different locations. But from here we have found a different concept that how pharmacy role brings minor changes in health care system.

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Are you ready for ‘Health Mart 2.0?’

BY Jim Frederick

With some 3,000 stores now under its banner coast to coast and official designation by JD Power & Associates as the nation’s favorite pharmacy service provider, Health Mart has achieved a remarkable growth record in the eight years since McKesson launched a top-to-bottom overhaul of the Health Mart brand and marketing strategy. Now, the nation’s top name in independent franchised pharmacy is stepping up to a new level of customer care, operating performance, marketing sophistication and technological prowess.

That was the message from Brian Tyler, president of McKesson’s U.S. pharmaceutical division, to hundreds of franchisees at the 2012 Health Mart Annual Meeting Tuesday. After years of a dramatic buildup in numbers, market penetration and name recognition, Health Mart will undergo another major overhaul as company leaders work with individual franchise owners to improve sales, drawing power and profitability, and to compete more effectively with the national chains.

“We’re calling it Health Mart 2.0,” said Tyler. The goal, he said, is “to essentially refresh our strategic five-year plan.”

McKesson continues to search for a successor to former Health Mart president Tim Canning. In the interim, Tyler and other company officials have met with hundreds of Health Mart store owners around the U.S. to solicit their input and develop new strategies in clinical care, store support and effective marketing for the big franchise chain.

“We’ve hosted many meetings across the United States to shape the future of Health Mart,” Tyler told attendees. “We need to show the chains that we’re not going away: that we are the community pharmacy, and we will always be the community pharmacy.”

Even without a permanent replacement yet named for former Health Mart president Tim Canning, “We will not take our foot off the gas pedal,” said Tyler, in McKesson’s drive to grow Health Mart.

That means giving its members the tools to better provide clinical care to their patients through patient care and adherence programs like McKesson Sponsored Clinical Services and the Pharmacy Intervention Program (PIP), along with new technologies like ScriptAlert that enable community pharmacists to send refill reminders directly to patients’ mobile devices. It means boosting relationships with physicians through the Physician Outreach Program, enhancing operating efficiencies and business capabilities through learning tools like Health Mart University and RxOwnership, and winning clout and contracts with pharmacy benefit managers and health plans through programs like the AccessHealth network of McKesson-supported independent pharmacies.

“We’ve got to be able to take advantage of every revenue opportunity that exists,” urged Kevin Connor, VP and general manager of AccessHealth, in a panel discussion with other McKesson and Health Mart support leaders following Tyler’s speech.

Also underway: new efforts to build up demand among consumers for the non-pharmacy side of Health Mart stores via new front-end promotional efforts and a fast-growing Health Mart line of private-label products. Said Tyler, “We now have more than 330 private-label products,” and the list continues to grow.

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Franchisees mull ideas to boost Health Mart

BY Jim Frederick

LAS VEGAS – What can McKesson do for me that will help drive my success and assure my continued viability in a fast-changing and competitive healthcare market?

That question was on the minds of many independent pharmacy owners attending Tuesday’s business and educational forums at ideaShare 2012.

Health Mart franchisees have had plenty to say about the future of the enterprise, what they want from McKesson in terms of support and how they want to go to market. Hundreds of franchisees participated in a well-organized set of breakout sessions after the general business session of the Health Mart Annual Meeting Tuesday, brainstorming on a slew of topics.

McKesson officials organized the discussions to solicit input from the owner-operators on the frontlines of U.S. community pharmacy about the future direction of Health Mart as it takes its place among the nation’s premier drug store organizations. With a little prompting from the moderators who moved the discussions along in each meeting room, those franchisees mulled each of six long-term goals set by Health Mart’s leaders for the franchise.

They proposed a wide-ranging list of ideas and potential solutions to address those long-term priorities, which include:

  • Promoting the value of the Health Mart pharmacist;
  • Gaining greater access to pharmacy provider contracts offering different payment methods;
  • Building value for the Health Mart brand;
  • Improving clinical care capabilities among Health Mart franchisees;
  • Achieving operational excellence; and
  • Building more effective teamwork among and between Health Mart operators and McKesson. Said Brian Tyler, president of McKesson’s U.S. pharmaceutical division, “We need to coalesce as 3,000 stores around this vision.”

The franchisees participating in the discussions agreed. But they’re looking to McKesson to help them compete versus the big chains by applying more of its marketing muscle in the form of advertising dollars and brand-building tools.

One participant reminded his peers of the enormous power and name recognition of drug store brands like Walgreens and CVS, and said that for Americans who move to a new community and are unfamiliar with local independent pharmacy offerings, “it’s an easy default” for those consumers to simply move their business immediately to one of the big chains with the universally recognized logos. “We need something to compete with that,” he implored McKesson.

Added another franchisee, “we need to drive the Health Mart logo deep into America’s consciousness.”

Nevertheless, several Health Mart members expressed appreciation for the chance to interact that the conference provides, and for the strengths that McKesson and its store-support prowess have brought to their businesses. Said one attendee at the Health Mart opening session, “there are probably some people in this room who wouldn’t still be in business if it wasn’t for Health Mart."

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