HEALTH

Study: Competitive bidding hurts independent Rx

BY Michael Johnsen

Diabetes has always been a core competency for independent pharmacy operators. To that end, the National Community Pharmacists Association in October released results from a survey of more than 800 independent community pharmacists about the negative consequences for their patients and their businesses if diabetes testing supplies under Medicare Part B are subjected to competitive bidding prices.

“The message from our survey is clear: Applying competitive bidding prices for diabetes testing supplies to independent community pharmacies is financially unsustainable for these pharmacies,” stated NCPA EVP and CEO Douglas Hoey.

“Community pharmacists are indispensable to helping combat diabetes, whether it is the counseling they offer, the medications they dispense, the lifestyle modification classes they provide or the testing supplies they carry,” Hoey added. “But that dynamic will be harmed if these small-business pharmacies are forced to walk away from a pricing structure that only a large warehouse can make work. Such a mass exodus of community pharmacies from Medicare Part B would diminish seniors’ access, and the health complications that could ensue will only increase overall health costs.”

Diabetes is typically the first disease state addressed by wholesalers looking to expand the patient services offerings of their member independents. For example, Cardinal Health last year introduced its Specialized Care Centers concept with diabetes as the focus. “Every wholesaler has a diabetes ‘something,’” said Steve Lawrence, SVP retail independent sales for Cardinal. “Ours focuses on training the pharmacist [on] how to teach people to live with diabetes itself, knowing that the patients will then buy the products. But instead of focusing on products, it’s more about becoming a healthcare adviser for them on their diabetes, and what we’re seeing is pharmacists actually charging for that and gaining extra revenue while [at the same time] gaining new patients and picking up new product sales.”

McKesson’s Health Mart pharmacy franchise group earlier this month debuted a new Health Mart-branded private-label line with diabetes products to coincide with American Diabetes Month.

Other results from the NCPA survey included:

  • 81% of independents reported that their average Medicare diabetes patient visits his or her independent community pharmacy two or more times per month for counseling and/or diabetes testing supplies;

  • 84% of community pharmacists surveyed said they would likely drop out of the program if forced to take reduced payments or competitively bid;

  • If their patients were forced to obtain diabetes supplies by other means, 84% of pharmacists said their patients would suffer a significant impact; and

  • The majority (81%) of independent community pharmacies regularly deliver diabetes testing supplies to patients — often free of charge — with 28% making 30 or more deliveries per month. Without that home delivery and counseling from a community pharmacist, 65% of pharmacists predicted a significant impact on these patients, many of whom are unable to leave their homes.

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Colonial Life: Three healthcare trends that can impact retail pharmacy in 2012

BY Michael Johnsen

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Colonial Life and Accident Insurance last week released its top five trends and predictions for health care in 2012 — three of which may have some direct impact on retail pharmacy.

Wellness programs will become more prevalent as a way for employers to control healthcare costs and increase productivity and retention, Colonial Life stated. "With no let-up in sight for rising healthcare costs, employers are increasingly seeing the value of workplace wellness programs as a way to control premium increases and claims costs. Ranging from health screening tools to online nurse services, wellness-related offerings will become a bigger part of benefits providers’ value-added services," the company said.

However, the key to seeing a true bottom-line benefit may be as much about employee awareness and engagement as it is about the actual service, Colonial Life noted. "Good communication about wellness programs is essential for them to be effective," Colonial Life assistant VP marketing analysis and programs Steve Bygott said. "Without a focused effort to ensure employees understand the program and its value to them, participation tends to be low."

Healthcare technology also will play a greater role in health care, as employees will have more options for decision-support tools using online technology. "As employers continue to push benefits decision-making responsibility to their employees, look for a proliferation of web sites and interactive tools to help them understand different types of coverage and which ones meet their unique needs," the insurer stated.

And government sector employers in particular will focus on cost containment measures for their benefits plans. "Government employers are strongly feeling the effects of several years of reduced tax revenues, and now find themselves in the unfamiliar position of being forced to reduce benefits or raise their employees’ share of the costs," Colonial Life said. "A recent survey of public sector human resources managers showed 80% of them are looking at ways to reduce the cost of their employee benefits plans, and 58% said controlling costs is their top priority for their benefits programs."


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C.NAHABEDIAN says:
Nov-14-2011 09:08 pm

A generic solution that comprises many of the aforementioned trends and promises the needed benefits are UNMANNED MICRO CLINICs. Government, Insurance companies and retail establishments should be embracing such solutions to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.

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SoloHealth awarded Intel Innovation Award for healthcare kiosk

BY Michael Johnsen

ATLANTA — SoloHealth on Friday announced the company was awarded with Intel’s information technology healthcare award, the “Intel Innovation Award,” during the 2011 Health IT Leadership Summit that took place earlier this week in Atlanta.

SoloHealth was recognized for its next-generation health-and-wellness kiosk, the SoloHealth Station. “It was a very tough decision for the judges, as all four finalists were extremely qualified and deserving,” stated Jared Quoyeser, director of healthcare marketing for Intel Americas. “But ultimately our panel of judges selected SoloHealth because of its unique and impactful SoloHealth Station platform, which offers a solution that most efficiently and effectively helps combat the issues and problems facing our health delivery process, as well as access and engagement for consumers, medical professionals, businesses and our entire healthcare system.”

Currently in select U.S. test markets and retail locations, SoloHealth’s next-generation, comprehensive SoloHealth Station provides screenings for vision, blood pressure, weight and body mass index, and an overall health assessment free of charge. SoloHealth also partners with local health systems and physicians in each market and connects consumers to a database of local professionals, helping to facilitate people into action. The company plans to provide highly personalized and interactive healthcare opportunities for consumers, advertisers and retailers by placing kiosks in high-traffic retail locations.

A cloud-based platform, the SoloHealth Station will provide users with a multiplatform ecosystem to access and interact with data through the kiosks at retail locations, online/digital, mobile and emerging platforms.

 


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