PHARMACY

Aligning health services, nutrition

BY Jim Frederick

“Our health-and-wellness experts are leading the way for the future of health care in our stores and beyond.”

For any retail pharmacy provider, that would be a bold, perhaps even overly confident, assertion. But coming as it does from Walmart, it’s something that both the U.S. healthcare system and Walmart’s competitors are taking seriously.

(Click here to view the full report.)

Walmart’s goal, said Labeed Diab, president of health-and-wellness, is to be nothing less than “the No. 1 U.S. portable healthcare provider.” The world’s largest retailer is throwing its vast arsenal of resources behind that effort with a fast-expanding network of smaller stores with pharmacies; new pharmacy-based health services, such as immunizations, health screenings, insurance services and smoking cessation programs; a radically new concept for in-store walk-in clinics; a line of low-priced diabetic-care products called ReliOn; and a growing commitment to provide healthier nutritional choices.

“Whether it’s a small or large format, we have 140 million Americans who walk through out doors every single week,” Diab said. “In health-and-wellness, [we’re looking to be] a one-stop shop that American consumers can leverage.”

To that end, Walmart is taking big steps to make itself the destination of choice for virtually every facet of front-line, primary health services. That includes the care programs and prescription services developed by 53 U.S. clinical service managers and delivered by its 17,000 pharmacists, vision center services provided by some 4,000 opticians and optometrists, and expanding efforts to align all its health care and nutritional programs more seamlessly under one roof, according to Diab and other Walmart health-and-wellness leaders.

One major spearhead of Walmart’s campaign debuted in 2014 with the launch of a new in-store clinic format under the banner Walmart Care Clinic. The company opened 17 of the new care centers last year, positioning them as a full-service alternative to a visit with a primary care doctor with a range of health services, including urgent and preventive care, as well as management of such chronic diseases as diabetes and hypertension.

With its ambitious menu of primary health services and its radical payment structure — virtually free for employees and $40 for all customers regardless of service — the new clinic could be a disruptive force in U.S. health care if it’s rolled out nationally. “It’s just like going to your primary care physician,” Diab said.

Meanwhile, Walmart continues to drive home its message of “affordability and accessibility … the building blocks of our success.” Since the advent of its $4 generic drug pricing strategy in 2006, the company said it has saved shoppers “a total of $4.9 billion in prescription medication costs alone by switching from branded to generics.” And “the ability to walk into our stores and find affordable food [has] saved our customers $2.3 billion by offering low prices on fruits and vegetables,” to date, Walmart reported.

In addition, customers with diabetes “can save up to $784 on testing supplies per year” with the private label ReliOn brand of diabetic testing strips and other supplies, the company asserted.

On the broader front, Walmart is focusing heavily on the rapid rollout of such highly fruitful smaller store formats as Neighborhood Market, whose concentrated mix of groceries, general merchandise and pharmacy have been a hit with consumers. “Neighborhood Markets delivered approximately a 7.7% comp during the [fourth] quarter,” said Greg Foran, Walmart U.S. president and CEO. “We opened 233 Neighborhood Markets during the year, and customers like their easy and convenient access to fresh foods, pharmacy and services.”

The company also is steadily ramping up its automation, online marketing and distribution capabilities. “We’re also leveraging global best practices to increase site visits and add services such as the Asda Direct kiosk — which allows customers to order from online catalogs while they’re still in the store — to grocery delivery and drive-through pickup, which we’re testing in Denver,” Walmart Stores EVP and CFO Charles Holley Jr. reported.

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PHARMACY

Using multiple touchpoints to manage patient health

BY Michael Johnsen

When news of Rite Aid’s acquisition of the $5 billion-large PBM EnvisionRx broke on Feb. 11, the company’s shares closed 6.6% higher that day at $8.08. That’s because Wall Street knows a good deal when it sees one, and the acquisition of EnvisionRx is a good deal. Rite Aid’s new PBM will enhance the chain’s ability to provide a higher level of care to the patients and communities served by the Pennsylvania-based retailer.

(Click here to view the full report.)

In fact, Rite Aid in the past year has acquired a number of health offerings that put the retail pharmacy operator in a position to succeed in what has become a fast-moving healthcare marketplace. Rite Aid’s healthcare offerings include RediClinics inside select stores and its innovative Rite Aid Health Alliance program, both of which help maintain Rite Aid’s continued focus on health-and-wellness initiatives, enhance value and choice for customers, expand Rite Aid’s role in healthcare delivery, address needs of growing market segments and leverage Rite Aid’s existing store base to deliver growth.

“Over the past few years, we have made tremendous progress in strengthening Rite Aid,” Standley told investors when sharing the news of the EnvisionRx deal. “We built a strong foundation from which we are expanding our presence as a retail healthcare company. [The] announcement of our acquisition of EnvisionRx is the logical next step in our plans to enhance our ability to serve patients and drive growth.”

Rite Aid’s transformation into a comprehensive healthcare solution is felt through its stores, too. When you pair Rite Aid’s ability to better manage the overall health of a patient with such propositions as its 1,500-strong Genuine Well Being store format — including the company’s just-opened store in Harrisburg, Pa., its first net-new store since 2010 — such out-of-the-box customer engagement initiatives as the Rite Aid Innovation Challenge and an enhanced beauty offering, you have a pretty compelling retail solution that’s going to attract the best kind of customers — sticky ones.

And then there’s the expansion of RediClinics within Rite Aid stores. Beginning in the Philadelphia and Washington, D.C./Baltimore markets, Rite Aid’s 24 RediClinics will be able to treat patients for more than 30 common medical conditions. Rite Aid will field some 35 additional RediClinics within Rite Aid stores by year-end by expanding RediClinic into the Seattle market.

Another initiative that is squarely positioning Rite Aid as a provider is its recent partnership with HealthSpot on its telehealth kiosks, which will be piloted in three Ohio markets. Visitors to the HealthSpot station will be able to connect with a network of board-certified medical professionals, such as Cleveland Clinic and other major health systems across Ohio, through the HealthSpot Network.

Rite Aid’s new beauty look builds on innovations featured in previous Wellness remodels — such as illuminated displays and a free-standing nail bar — by incorporating premium brands into an expanded product mix. Stores piloting this concept also have specially trained beauty advisors who can demonstrate how products are used and help customers learn about new brands, color-matching and other current trends. “We now have 50 Wellness stores with expanded beauty departments that feature a broader selection of prestige brands and specially trained beauty advisors,” Ken Martindale, Rite Aid president and COO, told investors during the company’s third-quarter conference call in late December.

And in February, Rite Aid launched in some markets Receutics Active Skin Repairs exclusive 10-piece collection of dermatologist-strength skin care products that helps address skin care concerns. The line is expected to be available companywide by January 2016.

Augmenting Rite Aid’s health and beauty proposition to its consumer base, Rite Aid in March announced its participation in a first for the U.S. retail industry — a coalition loyalty card program that in addition to Rite Aid includes such iconic brands as Macy’s, AT&T and Hulu. The new loyalty program, called Plenti, is additive to Rite Aid’s already-robust loyalty card program wellness+, which boasts more than 25 million active cardholders.

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New name reflects broad care commitment

BY Antoinette Alexander

With a new moniker designed to reflect its broader commitment to health care, CVS Health is “positioned for today, preparing for tomorrow,” executives told Wall Street during its 2014 Analyst Day in December.

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“We expect that reform and demographic changes will increase the number of [insured] lives, and that will provide a long-term secular tailwind for the industry,” Larry Merlo, president and CEO of CVS Health, told analysts.

For 2014, total revenue in the pharmacy services segment increased 16.170 to $88.4 billion, fueled in part by specialty pharmacy, including the acquisition of Coram and the impact of CVS Health’s Specialty Connect offering rolled out in May 2014. Like Maintenance Choice, Specialty Connect connects mail and retail to provide choice and convenience for members.

For 2015, the company expects to generate roughly $37 billion in specialty revenues, up from an estimated $31 billion in 2014, Merlo explained.

CVS Health’s integrated PBM offerings are not only resonating with payers and translating into a growing list of new healthcare alliances, but the PBM business model has afforded the company a lever to help offset lost sales at retail, following its decision last year to pull the plug on all tobacco sales.

Despite the tobacco headwind, the impact on front-end sales was less than company executives anticipated and resulted in “no discernible” impact on its pharmacy business, the company stated in February.

The bold move to exit speaks to CVS Health’s larger mission as a health-and-beauty destination. Health and beauty has grown rapidly for the company with overall sales up more than 3070 over the past five years.

“Looking ahead, there are significant health-and-beauty opportunities we can tap into in the drug channel. Our market is poised between two worlds: the convenience sphere, which is the quick foods and general merchandise we sell, and the destinations sphere, which is all the health-and-beauty products that people associate with a drug store,” Helena Foulkes, EVP and president of CVS/pharmacy, told analysts.

Foulkes said the company has outlined five strategic themes to drive growth:

  • Better health made easy
  • Elevate beauty
  • Customer-driven personalization
  • MyCVS store
  • Digital innovation

As part of the strategy, the company is looking to deliver a better in-store experience and showcase its healthcare expertise. For example, it is expanding OTC and making it an integral part of adherence and post-care support.

CVS/pharmacy also is bolstering its selection of on-the-go healthy food.

Beauty will get a facelift with exclusive offerings and enhanced merchandising. Over the next year, shoppers will see an upgraded cosmetics wall in many stores, a stepped up facial care look and feel, endcaps dedicated to beauty elevation, and an increased focus on naturals and healthy solutions.

“Our very best stores are going to get the full effect and a total revamp with all of the above and much more,” Foulkes told analysts.

The company also is leveraging Minute-Clinic in beauty, offering, for example, eyelash lengthening consultations and services.

The company’s MinuteClinic business operates 960 clinics, and over the past two years has opened more than 340 clinics, while entering 20 new markets. The goal is to operate 1,500 clinics by 2017.

In addition to the ongoing clinic growth, the company also is expanding its scope of services. Along with preventive and acute care services, MinuteClinic also is looking to provide chronic condition monitoring and various wellness programs.

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