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Mobile health apps represent a sweet opportunity for those retailers trading on health and wellness

BY Michael Johnsen

MarketsandMarkets has projected the global market for mobile health apps and other products is expected to reach a value of nearly $21 billion in five years, according to a new report. That’s some 3.5 times larger than today — MarketsandMarkets estimates health apps generate some $6.3 billion today. That’s also a lot of consumers/patients interested in getting a better handle on their own care — and that spells opportunity for pharmacy operators.

The truth is these could be very conservative figures. Both smartphone and tablet penetration is on a steep incline across the world, leading to more app downloads. And the baby boomer generation — most of them tech-savvy — aren’t getting any younger. And that leads to more health and wellness downloads. 

According to another app market prognosticator — Portio Research — they placed the total app business at $12 billion through calendar 2012, representing more than 46 billion downloads. In 2012, more apps were downloaded than the previous five years, all taken together. 

And that sharp uptick in downloads will continue — Portio Research forecasts 82 billion downloads, overall, for 2013. Overall app revenue for 2013 is expected to reach upwards of $20 billion. By 2017, the global app market in total is expected to reach $63.5 billion. 

According to Portio Research, the number of apps any one person downloads has been leveling off in more mature markets such as Europe and North America. However, there are more devices on which those apps can be downloaded. That’s driving the growth. Smartphone shipments worldwide are expected to reach 823 million in 2013, while tablet shipments are expected to reach shipments of 208 million. 

That said, the number of app users is expected to reach 4.4 billion worldwide by the end of 2017, Portio Research suggests, which is four times more users than there are today. 

While you really can’t compare MarketsandMarkets’ apples to Portio Research’s oranges, the fact is both prognostications are as sweet. There will be billions of people worldwide all interested in bettering their health and wellness through technology. The pharmacy operator who figures out how to best tap into that self-care pool with a health and wellness center that effectively augments the utility of those apps — that’s the operator who will successfully translate opportunity into gain.

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Canadian study further demonstrates pharmacists’ role in improving patient care, cost

BY Alaric DeArment

Expanding pharmacists’ role in Canada could reduce the burden of chronic illness on patients and save the country’s healthcare system between C$1.4 billion and C$1.9 billion (US$1.34 billion to $1.83 billion) over the next three years, according to a new report released by Arthritis Consumer Experts, the Arthritis Research Centre of Canada and Shoppers Drug Mart.

Canada’s single-payer healthcare system is vastly different from that of the United States, not to mention differences between the two countries in terms of laws and regulations that govern pharmacy, but the lessons from the study apply equally to both.

The Canadian study is just the latest in years of research showing the benefits of expanding pharmacists’ role in health care. Allowing them to do things like develop and manage patient care plans and renew prescriptions would reduce the work load of physicians and provide greater convenience for patients.

Of course, American pharmacists are no strangers to that level of collaboration with physicians. In many states, in addition to vaccinations against flu and shingles, they can vaccinate against diseases like hepatitis A and B through collaborative practice agreements with physicians.

But perhaps the most crucial role pharmacists play in reducing costs is by promoting medication adherence through services like medication therapy management. Last month, the American Pharmacists Association released a book that presents new ways of teaching the theory and practice of motivational interviewing for healthcare professionals, which has been shown to improve treatment adherence and outcomes, promote behavior change, improve patient satisfaction and increase retention rates in complex case management. According to an often-cited study by the New England Healthcare Institute, poor medication adherence costs the U.S. healthcare system about $290 billion per year.

Then there are services like retail clinics and health screenings. Sam’s Club has administered millions of free screenings to customers at its pharmacies, and CVS announced Thursday the second half of its Project Health wellness campaign, whereby it plans to deliver more than $15 million in free health screenings to communities across the country by the end of the year.

As IMS Health VP industry relations Doug Long said in a presentation at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores’ Total Store Expo in Las Vegas, pharmacies are a crucial link in the cost-containment chain, but reducing healthcare costs will require collaboration between them, physicians, patients and payers. It seems the U.S.’s neighbor to the north gets the idea.

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CVS/pharmacy’s Project Health campaign is ideal platform for more than health screenings

BY Antoinette Alexander

CVS/pharmacy has kicked off the second half of its annual Project Health wellness campaign, which is slated to deliver more than $15 million worth of free health screenings to multicultural communities across the country by the end of the year.

While this campaign, known as "Proyecto Salud" in Spanish, isn’t exactly a new one for the pharmacy retailer, that doesn’t take away from its importance. This campaign further illustrates the vital role that community pharmacy plays along the frontlines of U.S. health care and is especially timely given the fact that healthcare reform looms on the horizon.

Aside from the array of free health risk assessments that will be available to participants — which is no doubt very important — CVS/pharmacy stated that it will have health insurance experts on hand to provide information about the new health insurance marketplace and the coverage options under the new healthcare law. This is a very good move, especially when you look at some of the stats.

According to a March 2013 poll by The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, three years after passage, a majority of Americans (57%) said they do not have enough information about the ACA to understand how it will affect them.  And this share rose to two-thirds among some of the key groups the law was designed to help: the uninsured (67%) and those with incomes below $40,000 (68%).

Note the fact that CVS/pharmacy reports about 45% of past attendees were uninsured.

And, when asked how much they have heard about their own state’s decision on whether to create a state-run exchange, roughly half the public (48%) reported hearing “nothing at all,” while just over 1-out-of-5 had heard “a lot” (7%) or “some” (15%), according to the poll.

As CVS/pharmacy clearly understands, the Project Health wellness campaign is an ideal platform to not only help consumers live healthier lives via preventive screenings but to also connect with consumers and provide them with critical healthcare reform information.

 

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