PHARMACY

Pharmacy efficiency among 5 ways Walmart uses big data

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Walmart is bullish on big data — especially when it comes to finding ways to better serve its shoppers.

Big data volume continues to grow, but Walmart is using it to the company’s — and its customers’ — advantage. By analyzing the robust information flowing throughout its operations, the discounter has gained a real-time view of workflow across its pharmacy, distribution centers, stores and e-commerce, according to a company blog.

Here are five ways that Walmart is using big data to enhance, optimize and customize the shopping experience:

1. To make Walmart pharmacies more efficient. By analyzing simulations, the discount giant can understand how many prescriptions are filled in a day, and determine the busiest times during each day or month. Big data also helps Walmart schedule associates more efficiently, and reduce the time and labor needed to fill prescriptions.

2. To improve store checkout. While it is still only testing the process, Walmart is using predictive analytics to anticipate store demand and determine how many associates are needed to man registers. The data also reveals the best form of checkout at each store: traditional stations or self-checkout.

3. To manage the supply chain. The company uses simulations to track the number of steps from the dock to the store. The result: more optimized routes to the shipping dock. The strategy also pinpoints the number of times a product gets touched along the way to the customer. Big data also reveals transportation lanes and routes for the company’s fleet of trucks. This insight helps Walmart keep transportation costs down and more accurately schedule driver times, according to the blog.

4. To optimize product assortment. By analyzing customer preferences and shopping patterns, Walmart can optimize how to stock shelves and display merchandise. Big data also provides insight into new items, discontinued products and which brands to carry, the blog said.

5. To personalize the shopping experience. By analyzing shopper’s preferences, Walmart can develop a more consistent, tailored shopping experience. If a customer is shopping for baby products for example, Walmart can use data analytics to anticipate their needs then create personalized mobile rollback deals for these shoppers.

Whether it’s analyzing the transportation route for a supply chain or using data to optimize pricing, big data analytics will continue to be a key way for Walmart to enhance the customer experience, according to the company. 

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PHARMACY

Q&A: QS/1’s new president looks to emphasize customer service

BY DSN STAFF
In June, QS/1 named Saul Factor president, succeeding Tammy Devine, who retired after 35 years with the company. Factor is no stranger to the industry and throughout his various roles has been especially focused on customer service. Beginning his career as a retail pharmacist, Factor moved to sales and brand management roles at such companies as PCS and Eli Lilly. As COO at RxAmerica, he developed a customer experience improvement strategy before starting a 10-year career at McKesson, first as SVP global generics, then as president of global sourcing and procurement, followed by a move to EVP corporate strategy at Accord Healthcare.
 
Factor brings his experience in various sectors of the pharmacy industry and his knack for growing businesses while improving customer experiences to his new role at the helm of QS/1. DSN spoke to him about his plans for continuing to expand QS/1’s footprint and its role as a partner to pharmacists looking to deliver on patient health.
 
Drug Store News: You’re bringing to QS/1 a whole host of experience from the pharmacy industry. As you take the helm of QS/1, what role do you see pharmacy technology solutions playing in the pharmacy world, and how does the company help deliver on that role?
 
Saul Factor: Technology has been, and will be, critical to pharmacy. As our healthcare system continues to evolve, pharmacy must also evolve to keep pace. That means new tools and better use of technology to help pharmacists focus on patient care and be a step ahead of changes in the business. Since its inception in 1977, QS/1 has delivered world-class pharmacy management solutions that enable pharmacists to provide enhanced patient care. We will continue to be at the forefront of pharmacy technology. 
 
DSN: Much of QS/1’s work in the past several months has been expanding its offering, most recently through its partnership with Updox to help make care coordination between pharmacists and a patient’s care team easier. How do these partnerships reflect QS/1’s larger mission with respect to making a pharmacist’s life easier and better enabling them to foster patient outcomes? 
 
Factor: With each change in the business of pharmacy, technology becomes an even greater factor, particularly as pharmacy’s role in the patient care team expands. We are looking to deliver every advantage possible to our customers so they can provide excellent service to their customers, better coordinate with patients’ healthcare teams and be a vibrant presence in their communities.
 
DSN: What would you say are your biggest goals for helping continue QS/1’s growth into, as you have put it, a “premier pharmacy partner?” 
 
Factor: First, we want to be the premier partner that pharmacies turn to for success. As one of the parents of pharmacy technology, we will provide a vision for the future of pharmacy. Customers will be at the center of all we do. We will actively solicit their input for solutions, and operational excellence will continue to underpin this successful vision.
 
DSN: You have touted a customer-centric approach to business that also fosters talent within an organization. Are you planning to bring this approach to QS/1, and how might that manifest itself? 
 
Factor: We plan to combine what QS/1 has already done so well in the areas of customer service and talent development with the experiences and perspectives I’ve gained from working with some great companies. We’re very fortunate because our employees share our goal of advancing the pharmacist’s role in healthcare to achieve optimal patient outcomes.
 
DSN: What would you say is the bottom line of what you’re hoping to do with QS/1 and its future trajectory? 
 
Factor: We appreciate that QS/1 is already an exceptional company with great people and products that support thousands of the best healthcare providers in America. We will continue to learn and grow in order to provide pharmacies with the tools they need as their roles evolve in the healthcare continuum. By placing the customer at the core, we lead in innovative development and comprehensive support. I look forward to being a part of QS/1’s very bright future.
 

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Pharmacy credentialing — challenges and opportunities

BY Bobbie Riley and Tom Suk
Under the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services regulations (42 CFR 455 Subpart B) to prevent provider fraud, waste and abuse, as well as to benefit patient safety, pharmacy benefit managers and payers must validate the credentials of pharmacies and any person with an ownership, control interest or managing employees within their networks.
 
This is a necessary measure to ensure they are in good standing with all applicable state and federal laws and meet quality performance standards, but it presents quite a few challenges for the industry.
 
Challenges we’re facing
Examples of required information on each pharmacy include, but are not limited to, contact information, vendor specifics and questions regarding pharmacy operations, such as business hours and languages spoken. The data collection for pharmacy credentialing, as well as the ability to easily update this information, requires significant time and resources for pharmacies and payers and results in certain operational inefficiencies for both sides. 
 
For example, for chain pharmacies, collecting and inputting the mandatory data requires an estimated 45 minutes — or longer. To illustrate the scope of this undertaking, consider that a well-known retail pharmacy with more than 4,500 locations would require more than 3,400 hours of labor to meet requirements. That’s the equivalent of 85 40-hour weeks.
 
Among the challenges also is a lack of industry standards on how to submit, deliver and receive information, as well as a requirement for PBMs to maintain credentialing information not just for the pharmacy and pharmacist, but also for such pharmacy staff as owners and managers. 
 
What is available?
Under the current approach, PBMs collect data from their network pharmacies using batch spreadsheets, as well as attesting they meet requirements through internal checks. Additionally, pharmacy services administrative organizations collect and provide pharmacy information while some independent operators utilize internal, PBM-created portals to enter information. 
 
One pharmacy resource currently collects the information needed to begin the credentialing process. It includes an online portal that allows chains to update owner information for all stores within chain code. Each pharmacy must then complete pharmacy- and pharmacist-specific information. 
 
Another current solution fills in some additional requirements, with capabilities that include verifying pharmacy and pharmacist primary Drug Enforcement Agency registration, as well as licensing information for the state in which the pharmacy is located. 
 
Once the data is collected, the LexisNexis Provider Integrity Scan can be used to both complete the credentialing and facilitate compliance with the CMS mandates that Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP providers be screened for their risk of committing fraud, waste and abuse before being allowed to enroll in a federal program. 
 
How can we simplify the process?
All the required data can be collected across a variety of platforms and processes, but currently there is no single solution that can save pharmacies and pharmacists time and reduce duplication of effort. The ideal solutions would:
Create a batch process to collect pharmacy data;
Obtain, clean and update data from PBMs and/or pharmacy chains;
Improve the response success rate by offering a pre-populated portal for pharmacy use; and 
Establish a centralized end-to-end aggregation process to assist pharmacies and PBMs/payers to collect the data, and help PBMs/payers to validate it. 
 
The solution also would need to be flexible enough to accept information on behalf of the pharmacist and still meet the regulatory requirements. As our experience in the payer-provider area shows, it often is not the physician who is inputting data but rather an office manager or administrator. As an added benefit, the ideal credentialing solution would minimize future disruptions by allowing for the input of “smart” attributes that might minimize future pharmacy disruption. 
 
Developing a “one-stop shopping” solution for the credentialing process should be the ultimate goal, and we welcome collaboration with any stakeholder to improve the current process. Solving this challenge would benefit PBMs, payers and pharmacies, as well as patients.  


Bobbie Riley, RPh, is vertical market lead, pharmacy, for LexisNexis Health Care.
Tom Suk is the senior director, product management, for LexisNexis Health Care.
 

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