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‘Boo-yah’ for Rite Aid

BY Alaric DeArment

In a segment of CNBC’s "Mad Money" program, host Jim Cramer proclaimed "Rite Aid is back" when a caller asked for the former hedge fund manager’s opinion about the Camp Hill, Pa.-based retail pharmacy chain. "Rite Aid is good. … It is an OK situation. The group is strong," Cramer said.

Cramer’s proclamation only confirmed what Drug Store News has been saying for a while now, ever since it became clear that Rite Aid had hit pay dirt with its Wellness+ loyalty card program, growing sales and reversing several years of annual and quarterly losses. In April 2013, the company posted its first profitable fiscal year since 2007.

But it’s not just a fluke in the stock markets, where Rite Aid’s shares opened at $3.55 Monday morning. The company’s fortunes are the result of a dramatic change in its fundamentals, including further growth of the Wellness+ program — and enhancements to the program like Wellness+ for Diabetes and the recently launched Wellness65+ for seniors — and Wellness store remodels.

As company executives like chairman and CEO John Standley and president and COO Ken Martindale have told DSN in interviews, it’s all about the employees whom the company prides on customer service, and the customers themselves.

Such people include Wellness Ambassadors, who walk the aisles of Wellness stores with iPads and provide information about OTC products and health and wellness services, as well as venturing out into the community to help sponsor flu clinics and promote the store. The company has said that its Wellness Ambassadors help make a difference in Wellness stores’ sales, whose front-end comps exceed those of non-Wellness stores by more than 3%.

As Cramer would put it, "Boo-yah!"

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Walgreens’ showcases deep talent pool with Gourlay appointment

BY Michael Johnsen

Walgreens last week made several executive moves to boost its Daily Living business organization, chief of which was the announcement that Alex Gourlay will make the transition from chief executive of Alliance Boots’ health and beauty division to EVP, president of customer experience and daily living for Walgreens. 

Gourlay will fill in the vision and leadership hole Joe Magnacca left when Magnacca departed Walgreens to take on the challenge of reinventing Radio Shack. The move showcases the kind of extended depth chart that is now enjoyed across Walgreens and Alliance Boots, and takes Walgreens’ strategy of tapping the best executives to fill strategic positions to a whole new global level.  

With the announcement Bryan Pugh becomes corporate VP, U.S. merchandising program development and execution. He has a knack for identifying new categories that complement what a customer expects out of her Daily Living experience.

In addition, several of Walgreens’ brightest stars will be given heightened responsibility in their respective roles as category stewards. 

Other executives who will be taking a step up in their roles within the organization include Moe Alkemade who has thus far managed Walgreens’ strong private label strategy; Shannon Curtin, the guiding force behind Walgreens’ upscale beauty depts; Robert Thompkins, an OTC/natural health veteran who helped engineer Walgreens’ Health Guide position; Jim Jensen, who helped craft Walgreens market-centric fresh offerings; and the strategic visionary Beth Stiller, who is now responsible for category development and adjacency synergies .

And there will be fresh faces with executives like Linda Severin, who comes to Walgreens by way of Kroger, where she led the redevelopment of that company’s private brand portfolio.

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Revised bill on NPs serves as reminder of challenges

BY Antoinette Alexander

After failing to gain enough support in a California Assembly, a revised bill that allows nurse practitioners to operate independently only in a hospital, clinic or other group setting regained some of its momentum and advanced in the assembly.

With the introduction of Senate Bill 941, as well as proposed legislation that is currently pending in several other states, it is clear that lawmakers are increasingly recognizing the vital role that nurse practitioners play. They also are realizing that expanding nurse practitioners’ scope of practice will only become increasingly important as millions of uninsured Americans come into the insurance fold in 2014 due to health reform amid a growing shortage of primary care physicians.

According to a team of researchers in a report titled “Projecting U.S. Primary Care Physician Workforce Needs: 2010-2015,” after incorporating insurance expansion, the United States will require nearly 52,000 additional primary care physicians by 2025.

While it is clear that lawmakers are taking note of the important role that nurse practitioners play in an already strained healthcare system, it is also evident that there’s much more work to be done to overcome resistance.

In its original version, Senate Bill 941 aimed to establish independent practice for NPs, enabling them to perform all tasks and functions consistent with their education and training. It wasn’t until the bill was revised and narrowed — removing a trail to independent practice without physician oversight after more than 6,000 hours of supervised practice — that it advanced in the Assembly.

“…These changes undermine the very heart of the legislation’s original objectives, creating additional, unnecessary regulatory roadblocks just as national healthcare reform is necessitating that the industry streamline care delivery models…” stated The American Association of Nurse Practitioners presidents Angela Golden and Kenneth Miller in a prepared statement.

The reality is that the spotlight remains fixed on scope of practice and how Americans can gain greater access to quality, convenient and cost-effective healthcare services. It is an issue that won’t fade away any time soon.

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