At the intersection

Jeff Bennett, CEO of higi, shares how higi’s partnerships, health monitoring stations and a connected healthcare system translate to healthier patients


There are two key trends playing out in health care right now that are simultaneously coming to a head — patients are taking an increasingly hands-on role in their health and pharmacy reimbursements are being tied to outcomes. One company that is operating at the intersection of these trends is higi, whose health monitoring stations delivered 42 million blood pressure screenings last year. Drug Store News caught up with higi CEO Jeff Bennett about how a connected healthcare system can translate to healthier patients.

Drug Store News: How do higi and its retail partners help facilitate better healthcare knowledge?

Jeff Bennett: At higi, our goal is to make it easier for you to be your healthiest. We are a population health enablement company that empowers consumers to better measure, track and act on their health data by first knowing it and then taking the action of sharing it with trusted healthcare providers and pharmacists, so together, they can determine the best action. To date, more than 50 retailers have worked with us and placed 11,000 stations in stores, and we delivered 42 million blood pressure screenings last year. This shows how retailers can be that front door of health care by connecting their customers to healthcare stakeholders through the higi platform.

DSN: Recent data from CVS Health showed that a good portion of women aren’t aware of their heart disease risk. How do your screenings help people understand their risks and what other factors might be impacting their health?

JB: This is an important topic, especially with the new blood pressure guidelines from the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association. As health care becomes more personalized, health information is likewise going to be personalized to the individual. Helping consumers understand and digest their personal information is critical. Of the 17 million screenings completed on higi stations by women in 2017, 60% had blood pressure readings that were in the hypertensive range with these new guidelines. More importantly, every 90 seconds one woman had a blood pressure reading that was in the range of hypertensive crisis, which highlights the value of convenient and immediate access to a trusted healthcare professional, including pharmacists.

DSN: What are some of the ways that higi and its partners help make pharmacists and stores into a resource for patients beyond
the screening?

JB: higi has three key pillars — reach, know, manage. The first step is asking how to get someone to engage and do a screening. But that’s just the first step. Our goal is to make it easier for the consumer — and for the stakeholders trying to reach these individuals — to routinely track their vitals over time for better population health management.

At Wegmans, consumers can securely share their health data from the station with the pharmacist through a secure integration with McKesson. The consumer can sit down at the station, receive a unique code, then walk up to the pharmacist and say ‘I want to share my data with you,’ which allows the pharmacist to review
outcomes and see how that patient is managing their health, along with their adherence information.
By being consumer-centric and inspiring the consumer to connect to their health, these efforts will drive better engagement between the pharmacist, doctor, and the patient. Higher engagement drives better outcomes over time, and we are making that regular touchpoint easier.

DSN: What do you see as the future of connected health, and what will higi’s
role be?

JB: We bet on this five years ago, and it’s great when something like CVS Health-Aetna, with its focus on connected health, happens because it validates the investments we’ve made. There is a need in the market for consumers who want a more convenient, cheaper and easier way to connect with healthcare providers and share their data. Through our actionable data and technology integrations, higi is that connective tissue as healthcare systems continue to move toward a value-based system where the retailer can be that front door of health care, making it truly easier for people to be their healthiest.

Jeff Bennett is the CEO of higi.


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Which area of the industry do you think Amazon's entry would shake up the most?

Fostering connections

NACDS RxIMPACT and NACDS Annual Meeting are directly related

BY Steve Anderson

NACDS RxIMPACT Day on Capitol Hill — held March 8 to 9 in Washington, D.C. — relates directly to many of the topics that will be addressed at the 2018 NACDS Annual Meeting, perhaps in some surprising ways.

For those who may not be aware of this flagship advocacy event, NACDS RxIMPACT Day on Capitol Hill presents an opportunity for pharmacy advocates to travel to the nation’s capital to visit with members of the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives. Now in its 10th year, it is difficult to imagine NACDS without it.

Potential realized
Since my first NACDS Annual Meeting in 2007, I have appreciated the opportunity and responsibility to report on NACDS’ progress each year. Through the leadership of the board of directors, the engagement of the membership and the professionalism of the staff team, we have raised awareness of pharmacy’s role as the face of neighborhood health care, and we have translated this into greater success in advocacy.

Think about it: It has been the case for quite a while that NACDS members operate stores in every single congressional district, and that there is a pharmacy within close proximity to most Americans (currently, 89% live within five miles of a community pharmacy). However, it is only through the dedication of NACDS members that we now can say this: Pharmacy advocates from all 50 states participated in the 2018 NACDS RxIMPACT Day on Capitol Hill, reaching the offices of every member of Congress in person. Those are two very important “firsts.”

Priority issues addressed
The NACDS Annual Meeting affords member-company representatives the chance to discuss the public policy issues that need to be addressed by the industry, through the common voice that NACDS makes possible. As has been the case for the past several years, the opioid abuse epidemic will remain a top priority on this list of issues. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that NACDS RxIMPACT is vitally important to the industry’s outreach to members of Congress on this topic.

Following pharmacy’s meetings on Capitol Hill this year, it was interesting to see the newsletters that members of Congress sent to their constituents. Many of these newsletters included photos and stories of the legislators’ meetings with NACDS member companies. Many of these stories focused on the fact that pharmacy remains committed to being part of the solution to the opioid abuse epidemic.

It also is worth noting that NACDS RxIMPACT Day on Capitol Hill is part of a comprehensive NACDS RxIMPACT grassroots advocacy program. Among the other components is the Congressional pharmacy tour program, through which NACDS members host members of Congress for tours. As was the case after meetings in Washington, D.C., we have seen many members of Congress reporting on their tours of pharmacies as well — and positioning these tours as part of their work to better understand and consider legislation related to opioid issues.

Future of chain-supplier collaboration
At the heart of the NACDS Annual Meeting, of course, is the efficiency of conducting a high volume of productive top-to-top business meetings in a short period of time. To do that, it is essential that the NACDS ecosystem remains productive and appealing for senior executives and emerging leaders.

NACDS RxIMPACT Day on Capitol Hill has turned into one of the key aspects of the overall value that NACDS chain members derive from the association. That bodes well for the culture of top-to-top engagement that is alive and well throughout the entire calendar of NACDS meetings.

It is amazing to think of the ways that NACDS RxIMPACT Day on Capitol Hill has emerged as a driving force for NACDS’ pro-patient and pro-pharmacy agenda, and — by extension — as a catalyst for the success of NACDS chain and associate members year-round.

Steve Anderson is president and CEO of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores.


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Which area of the industry do you think Amazon's entry would shake up the most?

Boiron USA’s homeopath to success

BY Seth Mendelson

Passion and pride.

Those are the few words Gary Wittenberg used to describe as the reasons for the success of Boiron USA, the Newtown Square, Pa.-based OTC manufacturer that is gaining traction with retailers and consumers across the country as it broadens product portfolio.

Wittenberg, the vice president of national accounts for the company, a subsidiary of France-based Boiron, said that a dedication to quality homeopathic products that offer alternative solutions to consumers has helped the company produce multiple outlet annual sales in the United States, approaching nearly $64 million in the food/drug/mass channel. That is a 20% increase over volume in the previous tracked year and nearly 300% more than the company registered in domestic sales volume just eight years ago.

“We are a company full of employees with a great deal of passion and pride in what they do,” said Wittenberg, who joined the company nine years ago bringing with him extensive experience in the OTC industry. “We pride ourselves on offering our customers — both retailers and consumers — pharmaceutical grade-quality items that makes everyone feel extremely comfortable with our products. The proof is in the pudding. We have had no recalls, and we just keep selling more products.”

The company was founded in France in 1932 by twin brothers and pharmacists Jean and Henri Boiron, who saw an opportunity to offer reliable homeopathic medicines in their home country. From those humble beginnings, the company, now headquartered in Lyon, France, is distributed in more than 50 countries, employs more than 3,700 workers and registers more than $1 billion in annual worldwide retail sales. The publicly-owned, but closely-held, company was named the No. 1 OTC pharmaceutical company in France in 2017 for the second consecutive year, according to a survey by AFIPA.

In 1983, Boiron established a U.S. presence, anchoring a subsidiary headquarters in suburban Philadelphia. Company officials said that in response to a significant interest in homeopathy in California, Boiron established a branch in Simi Valley, Calif., outside of Los Angeles in 1989. After much growth and the need to contract for larger warehousing on both the East and West Coasts, a newly-built West Coast branch was completed in 2005.

Boiron’s domestic staff totals 121 employees, consisting of pharmacists and lab technicians, accounting and technology personnel, a marketing staff, a public relations staff, a government affairs staff, a national sales force, customer service, order fulfillment and shipping professionals.

Yet, it was only about a decade ago that Boiron USA started to make a big push into traditional U.S.-based retailers. Before that, Wittenberg said, the focus was on natural products retailers, including Whole Foods Market. National pharmacy chains, large regional grocers and national mass market retailers then noticed the popularity of the products.

“About 10 years ago, there was an opportunity to expand on the success in natural food stores and into the mass retail world,” he said. “Traditional retailers saw the strength [that] our flagship brand, Oscillococcinum, which relieves flu-like symptoms, had in the natural class and realized there was a crossover opportunity [with] consumers in their classes of trade with Boiron’s product lines.”

The rest, as they say, is history. As more consumers became familiar and comfortable with the brand, Boiron officials became more aggressive with product introductions, marketing efforts and advertising, whether through traditional means or through new digital opportunities. “Frankly, we gained a lot of traction with Oscillococcinum and we were able to get it onto traditional retail shelves across the country,” Wittenberg said. “Today, it is on the shelves of every major national mass retailer and most regional chains, as well. And that success helped open the door for other brands we manufacture, including Arnicare, which is a topical analgesic, ColdCalm, ThroatCalm and Chestal.”

Things have gone so well for the company that it has moved into other segments, including first aid, internal analgesics and baby products. “Some may ask why we moved into the baby category,” Wittenberg said. “The answer is that it is the gateway to the entire Boiron franchise. If we can get moms to purchase our teething products and other baby products for their children early on, they will stay with us as the child grows up. Eventually, they will start buying our products on their own because they see them as safer alternatives to conventional OTC medications.”

Next up, Boiron hopes to leverage a white space opportunity in a category that is ripe for a natural solution. Wittenberg said the company will introduce new items in this category, as well as in other established segments, this year.

Of course, pushing the process along does not hurt either. Boiron utilizes a small, but effective, national medical sales team that roams the country educating physicians about the company’s products and suggesting that they are used as an alternative to allopathic products on the market, or at least in conjunction with them, Wittenberg said.

The company also conducts consumer testing to find ways to best optimize its packaging. “It has allowed us to learn a lot about what the shopper is looking for and how we can best educate them and draw their attention with our packaging,” he said. “Whether through digital, social media, traditional print or FSIs, we are always looking to educate the consumer about our brand and how it is different than most of the other products on the market.”

“Educating is vital to our success, and the type of consumer we attract is extremely savvy and looking for the right products for themselves and their families. So, we need to have that information on our packaging, and we need to be front and center online with the information they are seeking.”

With all of their bases seemingly covered, Wittenberg said the future looks great for Boiron, especially with demand increasing. “More and more consumers looking for safer, ‘better-for-you’ options in the OTC segment, we think we are perfectly positioned for future growth,” he said. “This is ideal for retailers. We attract an affluent, well-educated consumer, who is willing to spend extra money for the good of their families. That means high market baskets and good margins for retailers. It’s a great marriage for all of us.”


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Which area of the industry do you think Amazon's entry would shake up the most?