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Kmart introduces bill-payment service

BY Alaric DeArment

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. — Kmart has introduced a walk-in bill payment service in its stores, the mass merchandise retail chain said Wednesday.

Kmart announced the introduction of the CheckFreePay walk-in bill payment service from Fiserv, which allows customers at all of the chain’s stores to pay bills from more than 3,000 companies, including utility, credit card and auto loan bills, for $1.50 or less per transaction, with cash or a PIN-based debit card.

"We are continuously seeking convenient ways to help customers manage their personal finances," Kmart divisional VP alternative financial services Keith Brand said. "The debut of Kmart’s in-store bill pay program does just that — it gives our customers access to a fast and convenient way to pay bills and manage their finances."

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Target to offer guests more rewards via new Shopkick partnership

BY DSN STAFF

MINNEAPOLIS — Target has joined the Shopkick program, making it the largest retailer to reward its guests for using the app via their smartphones. Target guests nationwide can earn points for shopping at Target that can be redeemed for a variety of rewards.

"We’ve learned from our guests that theyappreciate being rewarded for doing what they already love to do — shopping at Target," Target VP marketing and guest engagement Bonnie Gross said. "In our test launch, Target guests in seven cities had the opportunity to experience shopkick at Target and we received rave reviews. Now guests nationwide can start earning valuable points just by shopping our stores."

Shopkick is free and available on iPhone and Android devices. When guests walk into their Target store, Shopkick rewards them with points known as “kicks.” Then, as guests shop the store, they have the opportunity to scan products ranging from everyday items like food and cleaning supplies, to specialty products like electronics and toys, for additional kicks.

Kicks can be redeemed for Target gift cards, Facebook credits, dining gift certificates, iTunes downloads, donations to charities, and more. Guests can also receive special in-store deals including coupons and discounts.

"Target is among the most admired retailers in the world. We are honored that Target is expanding the shopkick program nationwide to create deeper connections with their guests," Shopkick chief revenue officer Doug Galen said. "We believe that Shopkick provides a strong complement to Target’s existing loyalty programs and have heard loud and clear from our users that they love Target."

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CVS Caremark-sponsored research finds FDA drug warnings can fuel medication nonadherence

BY Antoinette Alexander

WOONSOCKET, R.I. — Food and Drug Administration drug warnings can have an immediate negative impact on medication adherence among patients, even if the warnings are not safety related, according to new research sponsored by CVS Caremark.

The research found that immediately following a high-profile FDA communication questioning the efficacy for a cholesterol-lowering drug, the monthly level of patients who stopped filling their prescription increased by nearly 6%. In addition, of those patients who stopped taking the drug after the FDA warning, only 16.5% switched to another clinically appropriate therapy.

The study, entitled "Warnings without guidance: Patient responses to an FDA warning about ezetimibe," was conducted by researchers at Harvard University, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and CVS Caremark, and was published in the June 2012 issue of the journal Medical Care.

"These findings suggest that when an FDA communication about a prescription drug is widely reported in the news media and is not related to a safety issue or accompanied by clear guidelines about how to apply this information, the resulting confusion can bluntly reduce overall rates of treatment," stated study co-author Niteesh Choudhry, who is with Brigham and Women’s Hospital. "Furthermore, if patients respond to this information by stopping therapy altogether and do not switch to another clinically appropriate medication, there could be a negative impact on health outcomes, which runs contrary to the intent of the initial communication."

Researchers from Harvard University, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and CVS Caremark reviewed the impact of an FDA communication made on Jan. 25, 2008, regarding the cholesterol-lowering medication ezetimibe. The FDA issued an early communication after results from the ENHANCE trial indicated that adding ezetimibe (known as either Zetia or the ezetimibe-simvastatin combination Vytorin) to a treatment regimen including simvastatin did not appear to improve patient outcomes. The FDA raised questions about the effectiveness of the drug in its communication, but did not advise healthcare professionals to discontinue prescribing these products. The communication received substantial media attention.

"This study provides an interesting perspective on how information made available to both healthcare practitioners and patients about the effectiveness of a drug can impact patient behavior and result in nonadherence," added Troyen A. Brennan, EVP and chief medical officer of CVS Caremark. "The results suggest that a more robust understanding of how and why patients respond to drug information could lead to even more effective public health warnings regarding new data about medications."

The researchers reviewed de-identified claims data for more than 860,000 patients identified as new users of ezetimibe between January 2006 and August 2008. The researchers estimated trends in discontinuation rates of ezetimibe during three time periods: before the FDA communication (January 2006 to December 2007), during the transition period when the FDA communication was issued (December 2007 to January 2008) and after the communication (January 2008 to July 2008).

In addition to the key findings related to drug discontinuation and low levels of drug switching to a clinically appropriate alternative, the researchers found that several patient characteristics were associated with discontinuation rates after the FDA warning had been issued. Overall, patients who resided in lower-income areas had a 12.9% lower rate of discontinuation compared with patients living in the highest income areas; female patients had a 6.9% lower rate of discontinuation compared with male patients; and younger patients had lower rates of discontinuation, with patients ages 18 to 34 years old having a 32.4% lower rate of discontinuation compared with patients older than 65 years of age.

This study is a product of a research collaboration between CVS Caremark, Harvard, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital that is focused on understanding why many consumers do not take their prescriptions as directed, and developing solutions to assist patients in using their medications effectively. Excess healthcare costs due to medication nonadherence in the United States are estimated to be as much as $300 billion annually.

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