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AccessHealth demos new suite of tools to help optimize managed care performance

BY Michael Johnsen

McKesson’s AccessHealth, a market leader in managed care solutions, is showcasing a number of enhancements at McKesson ideaShare 2016 designed to help enable independent pharmacies to gain access to — and compete in — the right preferred networks.

AccessHealth hosted a special sunrise educational session Tuesday morning, at McKesson ideaShare, where two executives from CVS Health talked about the types of activities and outcomes payers are looking for from independent pharmacies in order to maximize performance reimbursements opportunities.  In addition, AccessHealth team members were on hand in the McKesson ideaShare exhibit hall to walk attendees through the new enhancements.

But to get a first-hand understanding of how AccessHealth’s contracting and performance programs help independent pharmacy operators understand and navigate the managed care landscape, deliver best-in-class medication-related performance outcomes and optimize reimbursement, Drug Store News caught up with AccessHealth VP and general manager Eyad Farah and director, pharmacy performance Amie Bland in an exclusive pre-ideaShare interview.

“The narrow networks are not going to go away,” Farah told DSN. “They’ve proven successful in doing exactly what they’re supposed to do, reducing overall costs for payers and the PBMs.” This has been an interesting year, Farah explained, “because we’re starting to see more and more of these limited networks within the commercial and the Medicaid space,” which represents about two-thirds of the prescription volume for pharmacies participating in AccessHealth, he said.

Among the recent enhancements to the AccessHealth platform is the Pharmacy Performance Guidebook. Introduced earlier this year, the Pharmacy Performance Guidebook helps McKesson customers understand the overall performance focus of each PBM or plan, and offers detailed instructions for developing action plans to improve patient behavior and boost outcomes through such tools as medication therapy management, refill reminders, medication synchronization and behavioral coaching.

“As all of health care continues to move to a value-based payment model,” Farah said, “it’s becoming increasingly more important for community pharmacies to incorporate performance measures into their practices. Very similar to how performance models have grown in the last couple years, we’re going to see that move toward [limited] performance networks,” Farah said.  

“This is the year our pharmacists have more opportunities to obtain performance dollars than any other year we’ve seen,” added Bland. “In 2016, we’re seeing medication therapy management completion activity fees, bonus payments and now variable direct and indirect remuneration fees, so the actual reimbursements can be improved by elevating top performance.”

Direct and indirect remuneration (DIR) is a fee system, originally created by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and subsequently adopted by private payers, designed to lower costs and improve outcomes for patients. DIR fees are collected at varying times throughout the year, so anticipating and planning for them is critically important for pharmacy operators.

Pharmacies that meet the top PBM performance requirements may be charged a smaller DIR amount than those who underperform, Farah explained. “In 2016, about 40% of AccessHealth Medicare Part D claims had that variable DIR opportunity,” he said. In 2015, there were relatively none.
 
To help independent pharmacy operators maximize the variable DIR opportunity, AccessHealth also recently added the DIR Estimator Tool to its suite of tools. The DIR Estimator Tool helps estimate accrual and incentive amounts that could impact DIR payments.

After McKesson ideaShare, AccessHealth will be introducing a performance estimator tool that “will help stores identify all the performance opportunities they have available to them — for instance, if there are MTM activity fees available or PBMs that are offering the variable DIR rates,” Bland said. “There’s even a partnership within McKesson that’s offering rebates. So, the new estimator tool will highlight all the various performance reimbursement opportunities in one place for our pharmacies.”

Earlier this year, AccessHealth augmented its McKesson Reimbursement Advantage program with the launch of MRA+, which integrates PrescribeWellness Patient Engagement Center and Medication Synchronization Solution, StarWellness in the MRA program.  MRA+ helps pharmacies tap into their performance opportunities and provides a dedicated coach to assist pharmacies on their performance journey, Bland explained. “Our MRA and MRA+ stores have higher performance scores than those that are not enrolled in these programs,” Bland said. “They have constant reinforcement of the importance of pharmacy performance.”

Currently, more than 5,700 small and medium chain pharmacies are members of AccessHealth.

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Walgreens makes digital couponing even easier

BY Gina Acosta

DEERFIELD, Ill. – Walgreens customers now have the ability to redeem paperless coupons from Walgreens and manufacturers for online purchases, as well as in-store purchases.

Additionally, offers can now be “clipped” on product detail pages and in search results on Walgreens.com, and through the Walgreens mobile app.

Both new features are the drugstore chain’s latest enhancements to its paperless coupon offering, making it faster and easier for customers to find and redeem the latest promotions and deals.

“In the last few years, we’ve seen a growing demand from our customers to provide value and a seamless shopping experience whether they visit us in-store, online or through the Walgreens mobile app,” said Linda Filler, Walgreens president of retail products and chief merchandising officer. “Paperless coupons give Walgreens and our vendor partners an opportunity to deliver even greater value to our customers no matter which of our channels they choose to shop.”

Walgreens paperless coupons are the electronic coupons available to the more than 85 million active Balance Rewards members through Walgreens.com/coupons or the Walgreens mobile app. Customers can search and “clip” hundreds of offers in a variety of categories from Walgreens and other manufacturers. Clipped offers are automatically saved to a customer’s Balance Rewards card and can be seamlessly applied in-store at checkout when a customer uses their Balance Rewards card. Now, customers also have the ability to use their clipped offers while shopping online at Walgreens.com or through the Walgreens mobile app.

“We were one of the first retailers to take an innovative and simplified approach in developing the customer experience for digital coupons,” said Abhi Dhar, Walgreens senior vice president and chief information officer. “These latest enhancements, in addition to integrating our loyalty program with Apple Pay and Android Pay, have made it even easier for the millions of people who use our online and mobile channels every day to save even more at Walgreens.”

Since Walgreens first launched paperless coupons in 2014, the drugstore chain has seen a continual increase in monthly redemptions, with more than 135 million total coupons clipped through the program. The company has continued to enhance and simplify paperless coupons by also offering manufacturer coupons through a partnership with Quotient (previously Coupons.com Incorporated). Walgreens also plans to offer digital redemption and clipping from product pages for its Weekly Ad and Monthly Savings Book later this summer to give customers more savings opportunities.

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Study: Back-to-school forecast looks sunny

BY Dan Berthiaume
Many kids are just starting their summer vacations, but back-to-school shopping is well underway.
 
According to a study Yahoo conducted with Ipsos Connect, “Back-to-school Back-to-college Shoppers April 2016,” the average back-to-school and back-to-college shopper plans to spend 37% more in 2016 compared to 2015 ($470 compared to $343). And back-to-school shoppers are not only parents. Students younger than 18 spend an average of $273 per year on back-to-school supplies, and one in two back-to-school shoppers is buying goods for someone other than themselves or their own children.
 
Forty-six percent of survey participants began researching more than two months prior to the start of the school year, and most of their purchases took place one to two months prior to the first day of class.
 
In addition, back-to-school shopping is becoming increasingly omnichannel. Fifty percent of back-to-school shoppers use online articles for research, while 30% use online videos for research. Furthermore, more than 50% of back-to-school shoppers use a mobile device during the process and more than 90% find the mobile internet helpful in making their shopping decisions.
 
Other notable findings include:
More than 75% of back-to-school shoppers actively seek promotions, most notably price discounts.
Two-thirds of shoppers plan to take advantage of back-to school promotions after school begins.
 
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