PHARMACY

Physician Outreach builds script counts

BY Michael Johnsen

There are many ways a pharmacy operation can measure success; the most basic is to fill more prescriptions today than yesterday.

Ryan Merrell, head of marketing for Spence’s Pharmacy, a Health Mart pharmacy in Logan, Utah, is among many independent pharmacies who are using McKesson’s Physician Outreach Program to do just that by benchmarking total prescription share against their local market and helping to identify and build relationships with high prescribers in their areas — in real time.

According to a recent McKesson study, Physician Outreach subscribers have experienced a 1.8% average increase in fills after using it for more than 6 months, with the most active subscribers experiencing up to a 7% increase.

One area in which Spence’s has been able to establish an important niche is in compounding. “With Physician Outreach, I’m able to easily identify the prescribers whose patients will benefit from our compounding services,” said Merrell, a licensed pharmacy technician since the age of 15 years. “As a result, we’ve doubled the number of compounding scripts we [filled] in the past year.” 

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Parkland Health Mart earns Pharmacy of the Year Award

BY Michael Johnsen

Quantity and quality: Those are the two metrics by which any pharmacy operation is measured — quantity of prescriptions dispensed and quality of services provided. Quantity keeps you in business; quality keeps your patients coming back.

It’s a constant challenge for a small operator to score high on both metrics, but that’s exactly what McKesson’s 2013 Pharmacy of the Year Award recipient Parkland Health Mart Pharmacy, of Desloge, Mo., has done.

Parkland Health Mart Pharmacy, owned and operated by Lisa Umfleet, was recognized with the McKesson Pharmacy of the Year honor for excelling across a broad range of pharmacy services catering to a community of 5,000-plus residents. The best-in-class services include comprehensive medication therapy management, medication synchronization, 340B support (i.e., a government program that promotes access to affordable medicines), Medicare Part D counseling, diabetes counseling, immunizations, long-term care service and delivery service.

Umfleet recently remodeled and expanded her Parkland Health Mart store, with new features like an area for private consultations and immunizations. Additionally, the pharmacy has embraced McKesson technology and automation solutions to help build and diversify its patient base, as well as to improve accuracy and speed of service metrics.

Umfleet has been operating her independent pharmacy as a Health Mart since 2009. “What I originally was looking for with the Health Mart model was the brand identity. But I have gained so much more that I wasn’t expecting,” she said. “The services they offer, such as the claims reconciliation, the interface between the pharmacy computer system and the generics program — I don’t have to spend my time manually managing these tasks.”

For example, Umfleet noted that before joining Health Mart, she had to dedicate one full-time staff member to reconciling claims. “Now we just get an exceptions report. … There are a lot of time savers, which turn into dollar savings.”

Over the past six months alone, Parkland sales are up 30%, Umfleet told DSN. She credits much of that to the efficiencies driven by McKesson’s support services, which help lift the quantity of prescriptions dispensed so she can focus on quality and frequency of patient engagement.

“By utilizing McKesson’s services and products, our pharmacy staff is able to devote more time to providing excellent patient care,” Umfleet said. “For example, we started doing medication synchronization probably four years ago. But really what happens is, once you sync up these patients, it gives you more time to spend with your patient. It helps drive compliance and adherence while you’re doing synchronization, and it helps you with your workflow and efficiency.”

Another program Umfleet considers key to her pharmacy’s success has been McKesson’s suite of marketing solutions. “Before I was with Health Mart, I was having to spend a lot of my time writing ads or talking to people about advertising,” she said. “It just took me away from being able to focus on my business. So having the marketing toolkit and the templates right there, it’s just a huge time saver, and it gives us that professional image.”

Umfleet also utilizes McKesson’s Physician Outreach Program, which measures what percentage of prescriptions written by local doctors is being captured by the independent operation. “It was actually a surprise when we first signed up for it because we’re right next to a physicians’ office, and I would have thought that our capture rate on their prescription volume would be much higher than it actually was,” she said. That prompted Umfleet and her marketing coordinator to contact the physicians personally and let them know about their services.

With the help of McKesson, Umfleet plans to continue to expand on quantity, quality — and new stores, too. She recently partnered with local pharmacist Jeremy Leach to open a second Health Mart store in Fredericktown, Mo., this past winter, and a third location is planned for Ironton, Mo., this fall.

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Tracing the growth of a pharmacy juggernaut

BY Jim Frederick

In 2006, Health Mart was a loosely cohesive buying and marketing group of 268 independently owned and operated drug stores, falling under McKesson Corp.’s store-support umbrella via its purchase of the old FoxMeyer wholesale business in the mid-1990s. Today, just seven years after its reinvention and relaunch by McKesson, Health Mart is the nation’s biggest independent pharmacy franchise and one of the fastest-growing drug store networks of any kind, with more than 3,100 member stores doing business in thousands of communities across the United States.

It was an idea whose time had come, said Kevin Kettler, SVP marketing for McKesson U.S. Pharmaceutical. Given the massive challenges confronting independents — daunting competition from chain pharmacy, mounting operating and marketing costs, and a shifting healthcare reimbursement system, to name a few — the conditions were ripe for a new kind of high-concept, comprehensive store-support model. One that blended the traditional strengths of independent pharmacy with the sophisticated marketing, merchandising, technology and the kind of clout with payers and pharmacy benefit managers that McKesson could provide through Health Mart.

The concept “clearly resonated” with independents and met “a need in the marketplace,” Kettler said. “When Health Mart relaunched, we had a goal of bringing the local identity and personalized service of an independent together with the recognition of a national brand for payers, patients and manufacturers,” he explained.

Health Mart’s success, Kettler added, derives from “the anchor that is independent pharmacy, and from supporting the core aspects of what our individual pharmacists and pharmacies do in terms of serving their patients.”

The economies of scale provided by corporate parent McKesson are clear in many segments of Health Mart’s business. For instance, Kettler said, “we didn’t have to go build a private-label team” when Health Mart introduced its own line of store-brand OTC products and vitamins in November 2011. McKesson’s store-support team already had developed a very successful private label, Sunmark, and was able to “leverage the capability” to launch the Health Mart brand, he told DSN.

Kettler oversees market strategy, product development and customer programs for all McKesson market segments, totaling more than $90 billion in annual sales, as well as development of store-support programs for both Health Mart and McKesson’s complete universe of independent pharmacy customers.

It’s a growing menu of capabilities, including programs specific to Health Mart — such as the revamped Local Marketing Support program and the consumer-facing online platform and mobile app, Your Pharmacy Online — and the broader suite of services available to all McKesson customers.

“We’re able to leverage the scale of our 6,000-plus independents in certain circumstances where appropriate, and we’re also able to use those capabilities to tailor solutions specifically for Health Mart,” Kettler explained. “So it’s the best of both worlds.”

It goes without saying that the franchisees under the Health Mart umbrella participate more fully in McKesson’s full menu of store-support services, and thus are eligible for the highest level of commitment and services the company has to offer. “There are some [support services] that naturally fall into the Health Mart-only bucket,” Kettler acknowledged.

Examples include the Health Mart private-label program and the newly revamped Local Marketing Support program, “where we’re able to leverage the brand of Health Mart and create the design, writing and advertisements that support our Health Mart franchise.” Also included in that bucket is a variety of recently revamped store design options that puts the focus even more sharply on pharmacy and health services.

Another major benefit available to Health Mart franchisees is priority access to a still-growing arsenal of technological solutions that extend their reach to patients and their peers via mobile, social and online tools. For instance, the Your Pharmacy Online offering provides a turnkey website, a mobile website and a smart-phone app for pharmacy owners, letting patients order refills, receive reminders, or check store information. While the web-site option is available to all independent customers, the smartphone app is currently only available to Health Mart customers.

What’s next for Health Mart? Kettler sees the transformations currently upending the U.S. health system as ultimately of huge potential benefit to pharmacy. Health Mart, he said, “is very well-positioned” for the shift to what he calls an “evidence-based” reimbursement system and “the payer evolution, whether it’s narrow or exclusive networks, or some other system,” he told DSN. “If you look at the relationship and trust our Health Mart pharmacists have established as care providers in the community, combined with the value they bring from a clinical support perspective, we’re very optimistic.”

Seven years into its transformation, Health Mart has grown into a major force in community pharmacy. And with the changes coming under health reform, and the strong leverage McKesson gives Health Mart members among patients, payers and physicians, the next seven years could be even more transformational.

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