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With Walgreens’ and ESI’s new deal, September will be about battle for the pharmacy patient

BY Michael Johnsen

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — Prepare to roll up your sleeves, because the battle for the ESI patient has only just begun. While Wall Street is busy calculating the earnings-per-share impact this will have on all relevant parties (Walgreens’ stock is still trading up some $3, an approximate 10% increase, since the announcement), the business of pharmacy retailing will return to block and tackle mode. Filling prescriptions across the back-bench may have become a commodity, but that pharmacy patient still holds tremendous value. And beginning Sept. 15, CVS, Rite Aid and all others who captured Walgreens patients out of this dispute will be fighting to keep them while Walgreens makes a concerted effort to win them back.

(THE NEWS: Walgreens, Express Scripts end dispute. For the full story, click here.)

And what does that mean? It means the inherent pharmacy value proposition is going to be hyped by all of the major players to the "nth" degree. Walgreens is launching its loyalty card in September, so the Chicago-based retailer already had planned to kick its marketing up another notch. And Rite Aid already may have something in the works for its very much successful Wellness+ loyalty program — analysts in June attempted to tease out what those plans were during Rite Aid’s last conference call, but Rite Aid’s John Standley declined to reveal his hand: "We can’t give away all of our secrets."

But pharmacy’s secret sauce will share many of the same ingredients across all of the chains, including ever-evolving patient interaction/interception programs to help mitigate noncompliance and improve outcomes. There’s also immunizations, a healthcare offering that has fast become a staple across retail pharmacy. And now loyalty cards. Between CVS’ ExtraCare card, Rite Aid’s Wellness+ and Walgreens’ yet-to-be-unveiled card that surely will benefit from its recent Alliance Boots relationship, patients will be given a host of reasons to visit their pharmacy come September.

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Electronic medication reconciliation: When the healthcare industry collaborates, everyone wins

BY Lathe Bigler

Healthcare providers in today’s environment are committed to promoting patient safety while providing access to the most reliable and innovative treatments. Medication reconciliation, which is defined by The Joint Commission as “the process of comparing a patient’s medication orders to all of the medications that the patient has been taking,” is designed to prevent drug-related errors — including adverse interactions, overdoses or allergic reactions — and can assist healthcare providers, especially during care transitions when patients are most likely to receive new medications or alternative doses.

Fortunately, nearly all healthcare providers reconcile medications at some point — and often many points — during the care cycle. In fact, a recent survey of more than 100 hospital pharmacy services and medical records personnel conducted by Emdeon found that fully 99% of these organizations comply with The Joint Commission’s definition of medication reconciliation.

Of those surveyed, 91% said they perform medication reconciliation when a patient is admitted to a hospital, 84% upon discharge, 69% upon admission to the emergency department and 68 percent when a patient is transferred from one hospital unit to another. And many respondents indicated that their organization utilizes more than one avenue for acquiring the data, including patient queries, information from the admitting physician, via an electronic health record or other means.

  When is medication reconciliation performed   Response
  Hospital admission 91%
  Hospital discharge 84%
  Emergency department admission 69%
  Hospital unit transfer 68%

 

 

 

 

 

Also, an interesting statistic around medication reconciliation is that it takes an acute caregiver an estimated 19 minutes to manually reconcile a patient’s medication. When performing the reconciliation electronically, it can take as little as two minutes. This can present a huge increase in productivity for medical personnel.

In spite of the seemingly thorough efforts toward medication reconciliation, there continues to be relatively high instances of medication discrepancies that could prove harmful to patients and costly for hospitals. That might explain why 33% of those surveyed rated their medication reconciliation effectiveness as “fair,” compared with only 31% who indicated it as “good.” Similarly, the largest portion of respondents — 38% — felt the accuracy of their medication reconciliation method was simply “fair” verses the 26% who rated it as “good.”

Industrywide collaboration is key
Medication reconciliation is poised for reinvention. Even today’s technology solutions are rooted in costly, inefficient methods. For example, patient medication records are most often acquired on a per-transaction basis and delivered to the provider upon request. What if healthcare providers had real-time access to their patient’s claims-based medication history within their EHR or other preferred access point without needing to go through traditional protocols? It would likely promote efficiency and reduce or eliminate costs from the medication reconciliation process.

New, innovative technologies are promoting connectivity between clinicians, pharmacies and patients to assist in medication reconciliation. For example, master patient index software can be designed to intelligently match patients with the medications prescribed to them over time and at different locations. And e-prescribing modules that support interoperability among diverse systems throughout the healthcare provider community can facilitate automated medication management and drug utilization review programs that could alert those providers to potential drug-to-drug or drug-to-allergy interactions.

In effect, technology is the easy part. The greater challenge will be to bring all constituents together with an information-sharing objective. The reality is that everyone benefits from a smooth medication reconciliation process. Perhaps healthcare’s transition to patient-centered care models, such as the accountable care organization, will be the spark plug for a new era of medication reconciliation. With government and commercial payers alike providing incentives for quality improvements while conversely penalizing for poor clinical outcomes (e.g., Medicare’s 30-day readmission rules), healthcare providers cannot afford medication-related errors that can be prevented with an effective application of technology.

Delivered within a clinician’s workflow, real-time medication reconciliation services also will enhance healthcare provider efficiency, allowing them to devote more time to patient care and less time to administrative tasks. And healthcare providers have the opportunity to participate in shared revenue programs for the delivery of the patient medication history information.

Of course the most important beneficiary of technology-enhanced medication reconciliation is the patient. With more accurate information at the point of care, healthcare providers will be equipped to reduce the medication errors — duplicate prescriptions, incorrect dosing and drug omissions — that have taken such a costly toll on human life.


Lathe Bigler
Senior director of clinical services, pharmacy services division
Lathe Bigler serves as Emdeon’s senior director of clinical services for the pharmacy services division. His focus on developing layers of competitive advantage and increasing market growth are instrumental in Emdeon’s advancement in the exchange of electronic prescriptions and other clinical information. Bigler has more than 15 years of experience in the healthcare and information technology fields, and has held roles in marketing, product management, business development and industry relations with such corporations as NDC Health, Midmark Diagnostics, DrFirst and AltaPoint Data Systems. Bigler has a bachelor’s degree in marketing and business administration.

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PriceGrabber reveals shoppers’ money-saving tactics this BTS season

BY Allison Cerra

LOS ANGELES — Back-to-school shoppers plan on stretching their dollar and taking advantage of retailer incentives to save, PriceGrabber said.

Releasing additional results from its back-to-school shopping forecast — which previously revealed that consumers are planning to spend more money on back-to-school items this year — PriceGrabber noted that three-quarters of survey respondents (74%) cited free shipping as the top retailer tactic that would entice them to make a back-to-school purchase. This was followed by sales (72%), price cuts (66%), coupons (63%), online promotion (43%), price matching and in-store promotions (28% each).

What’s more, smartphones also will play a key role in making these purchases, as 37% of PriceGrabber survey respondents said they plan to compare prices from their mobile phone while in brick-and-mortar stores this back-to-school shopping season. Among them, 14% of respondents said they plan to do back-to-school shopping from their mobile phones.

"Whether shopping in stores or online during this back-to-school season, consumers should leverage the multitude of money saving tools and retailer incentives that are available," PriceGrabber general manager Graham Jones said. "We can deduce from our survey that free shipping will be a huge deciding factor when consumers purchase online. Savvy shoppers will get the most for their money by searching for coupons and actively using comparison shopping websites to ensure they are getting the best deal."

Meanwhile, when PriceGrabber survey respondents were asked to select all of the ways in which they plan to save money while back-to-school shopping this year, those surveyed ranked online and comparison shopping websites as the top destinations (62%), along with discount, bargain and outlet stores (56%). In an effort to save, many respondents said they would search their home for school supplies or take an inventory of their child’s closet (50% and 49%, respectively) before making additional purchases. Other saving methods that may be utilized include making a list to control impulse buying (36%) and visiting retailer websites to print out coupons (34%).

"We aren’t at all surprised to see that survey respondents selected online and comparison shopping websites as the number one money-saving method for back-to-school purchases," Jones said. "With the ability to monitor prices at one’s fingertips and to shop around the clock, today’s busy and money-conscious consumers are looking to online and mobile shopping as go-to options for finding the best deals."

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