NACDS Pharmacy & Tech Conference offers manifesto of pharmacy’s value
SAN DIEGO —If ever there was a time for retail pharmacists to assert their role and ride to the rescue of a broken healthcare system, that time is now.
That, in essence, was the dominant theme of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores’ 2010 Pharmacy and Technology Conference here. NACDS leaders urged the hundreds of pharmacy retailers, suppliers and guests who attended the 53rd annual pharmacy event to press their case, both locally and nationally, for a larger stake in the healthcare system and fair reimbursement for a steadily growing list of health-and-wellness services by pharmacists.
“We must define the value for pharmacy in a reformed healthcare delivery system,” said NACDS chairman and CVS Caremark president and COO Larry Merlo at the conference’s opening business session Aug. 29. “We’ve identified several areas where pharmacy is in the best position to effectively and positively contribute to all three pillars of that healthcare equation: access, quality and cost. But most important of all, we must ensure that the value of the pharmacy industry, and its pharmacists, [is] recognized by payer reimbursement policies—not just for the products we sell, but for the services we provide.”
The healthcare system, said industry leaders at the four-day event, is in a state of crisis and will demand the kinds of cost-effective, patient-focused solutions that retail pharmacies can provide. Indeed, said NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson, retail pharmacy is going through a “historic paradigm change” as pharmacists and pharmacy leaders expand their patient care and clinical capabilities, and provide new solutions to a “broken” healthcare system undergoing rapid change. That change, he told attendees, would usher in a “renaissance” in how pharmacy is practiced and how pharmacists collaborate with other healthcare professions. “We need to build a case for a modern and viable reimbursement system” that takes into account pharmacy’s contributions to health and cost-effectiveness, Anderson asserted.
On the show floor
To that end, Anderson announced the launch of a new component of the bipartisan grassroots lobbying campaign, dubbed RxIMPACT Votes! “This is what political professionals refer to as a get-out-the-vote campaign,” he explained. “It encourages NACDS member company staff to register to vote, encourages them to volunteer for political campaigns of their choosing and then inspires them to vote on Election Day.”
The pharmacy gathering, which concluded Aug. 31, provided a packed schedule of information-sharing sessions and educational seminars, and showcased a host of new products and solutions for pharmacy retailers.
GNC to sell branded retail, food-service equipment
LOS ANGELES General Nutrition Centers has inked a deal to sell its retail and food-service equipment with the help of IMG Licensing and The Legacy Cos.
IMG’s licensing agreement for GNC with The Legacy Cos. will give way to the creation of GNC-branded products, such as blenders and juicers, which will be distributed in the company’s stores. The products will retail from $150 to $400, IMG said.
The agreement will run through 2015.
“GNC has set the standard as an industry leader in the nutritional supplement business and is truly dedicated to helping its customers improve health and quality of life. Teaming up with The Legacy Cos. to expand its brand and create this new and exciting product line will continue to solidify GNC’s brand and its commitment to providing exceptional products and services to consumers,” said Tim Rothwell, IMG EVP and co-managing director of worldwide licensing.
Added GNC EVP Tom Dowd, “GNC is very excited to partner with a high-quality manufacturer that can produce a variety of products that complement the healthy lifestyle of our customers.”
Drug stores’ success relies on customer service
WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT In the never-ending battle for customer loyalty, independents rule and service is still king.
(THE NEWS: J.D. Power and Associates’ pharmacy study addresses cost, customer service. For the full story, click here)
The latest national customer satisfaction survey from J.D. Power and Associates showed that personalized, above-and-beyond service still outweighs price for a majority of consumers — even in a dour economy beset by economic uncertainty and joblessness. A majority of the more than 12,300 pharmacy customers polled by the big research firm in May and June of this year gave their highest satisfaction scores to pharmacists that took more time to answer their questions, help them find over-the-counter medicines and, perhaps, even remembered their names and family situations.
This, despite the growing cost sensitivity among Americans about the prices of their medicines and the out-of-pocket expenses they incurred at the pharmacy counter. As Jim Dougherty, J.D. Power’s director of the healthcare practice, put it in a conference call to discuss the survey results, “Pharmacies that are focused on service garner the highest levels of satisfaction … even in an environment where cost has become increasingly important.”
That’s good news for small-scale, owner-operated independent pharmacies. It’s also good news for the Big Three drug wholesale giants that operate the major networks of independents, franchised and otherwise, that scored the top results.
Again this year, survey respondents ranked independents tops in overall satisfaction. Customers gave their highest scores to Good Neighbor Pharmacy, the huge network of some 3,700 independents that operate under the buying, merchandising and store-support umbrella provided by distribution and health services giant AmerisourceBergen. The two largest groups of independent-owned franchises, McKesson’s Health Mart and Cardinal Health’s Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy, ranked second and third, respectively, in the poll.
Among mass merchants, Target’s pharmacy operation got highest satisfcation marks for the fourth year in a row, while Publix rated tops among supermarket pharmacies.
Efforts to give the best possible service pay off, both in additional revenues and in measurable customer loyalty. Highly satisfied customers can bring in an additional $227 each year in prescription business, researchers found. What’s more, J.D. Power reported, “brick-and-mortar pharmacy customers who are highly satisfied … are more than three times more likely to say they ‘definitely will’ return to their pharmacy and 10 times more likely to say they ‘definitely will’ recommend their pharmacy to others, compared to customers with low satisfaction levels.”
That’s a lot of free word-of-mouth advertising.