PHARMACY

Savvy innovations keep drug stores ahead of the game

BY Michael Johnsen

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT Consumers are working more, playing more, shopping more and learning more online than ever before. So the click-and-consult services proffered by Walgreens and Rite Aid not only represent today’s cutting edge technology, but also provide a peek into how consumers may interact with their healthcare team tomorrow.

(THE NEWS: Walgreens extends online pharmacy with Pharmacy Chat. For the full story, click here)

Other national pharmacy operations can’t be too far behind. Because making pharmacists accessible to patients on their terms, in their time, allows pharmacy retailers the chance to "shake their moneymaker," as the saying goes.

Pharmacists are drug stores’ most valued assets, and making them available to consumers 24/7 through their own computer screens is an important extension of the brand that doesn’t necessarily incur greater labor costs. Especially as these cyber-pharmacists are able to consult patients from coast-to-coast out of one central location. And if more patients get it in their heads that consulting pharmacists at their convenience on their laptops, smart phones or iPads is the new time-efficient way to get the best answers to their health questions, that can only improve efficiencies at the store level.

Providing a more comprehensive pharmacy service by incorporating an interactive online component also may boost patient retention. During an exclusive interview with The Drug Store News Group last fall, banking veteran and now Walgreens’ SVP e-commerce Sona Chawla explained that those forward-thinking bank institutions that had implemented online banking services in the beginning found that those account-holders who took advantage of those services were less likely to migrate to another bank and just as likely to visit an actual brick-and-mortar branch.

And now Walgreens and Rite Aid will find out if the same will hold true for pharmacy patients — making a more loyal patient who not only increases his or her actual interaction with the pharmacy online but also continues to make as many visits to the actual stores.

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PHARMACY

Cardinal sees modest revenue gains in FY 2010

BY Jim Frederick

DUBLIN, Ohio Drug distribution and health services titan Cardinal Health on Thursday reported a modest gain in sales but slackened earnings as the company grappled with a low-inflation economy and shifts in its own business model.

For the full year, Cardinal’s sales rose 3% to $98.5 billion, but revenues in the fourth-quarter were up a more modest 0.5% versus the same period last year, to $24.5 billion. The company’s huge pharmaceutical distribution business accounted for the bulk of sales, rising 2% in fiscal 2010 to $89.8 billion but just 0.2% in the final quarter versus the same period last year, to $22.3 billion.

“I am extremely proud of the progress we made in fiscal year 2010 and the actions we took to shift our growth trajectory and position us for the coming years,” said George Barrett, Cardinal chairman and CEO.

Nevertheless, much of the momentum came from the company’s Medical segment, which grew profits by 11% for the year “while continuing to make key strategic investments,” said the chairman. By contrast, Cardinal’s massive Pharmaceutical division, beset by the lack of pricing inflation on some branded drugs, “fewer significant generic launches,” supply shortages in nuclear pharmacy and other factors, saw a 3% pullback in earnings for the year and a 17% profit decline in the fourth quarter.

Barrett acknowledged the slump in the company’s wholesale pharmaceutical segment. However, he cast the downturn in a positive light, noting that the drug distribution operation “performed considerably better than we anticipated for the full year.”

Barrett credited “execution on major initiatives, disciplined cost controls and some unplanned generic launches” for that performance. “These items largely offset the dampening effect of the actions we took to improve our strategic positioning, the negative impact from the year-over-year comparison of generic launches and the severe supply shortages in nuclear pharmacy,” he added.

“We made great strides in fiscal 2010 with key strategic priorities including our generic sales and sourcing initiatives, working capital optimization and customer-facing information technology improvements – all of which are starting to have a positive impact on the bottom line,” Barrett said. “With the recent renewals of key customers, we have stabilized our base for the next several years. In addition, our recent acquisition of Healthcare Solutions Holding will help accelerate our strategy for specialty pharmaceuticals and contribute to long-term growth for the segment.”

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Lilly to host 12th annual Victory Over Diabetes event

BY Alaric DeArment

ATLANTA An event taking place this week aims to educate African-Americans about diabetes management.

The American Diabetes Association and drug maker Eli Lilly will put on the 12th annual Victory Over Diabetes event in Atlanta Saturday. The event will feature R&B singer Angie Stone, spokeswoman for Lilly’s Fearless African-Americans Connected and Empowered program, free screenings and culturally relevant resources for African-Americans with diabetes. Diabetes is estimated to affect 10% of adults in Georgia, according to the Georgia Department of Community Health.

“I know from experience that living with Type 2 diabetes is a lifelong journey,” Stone said . “Today, I am successfully managing my diabetes through a series of positive lifestyle changes.”

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