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Emerson Group hosts record-breaking Retail Industry Day

BY Antoinette Alexander

PHILADELPHIA — Hundreds of attendees — ranging from Emerson Group clients, to retailers, to agencies, to members of the private equity community — gathered at the Ritz Carlton in downtown Philadelphia on Oct. 1 to attend the 7th Annual Emerson Group Retail Industry Day.

With a robust lineup of diverse, powerful speakers and record-breaking attendance, the day proved nothing short of impressive and delivered on the goal of providing on-trend, relative content to help brands navigate today's evolving retail landscape.

"The intent is really to be on trend with issues related to the changing dynamics in the consumer and the retail environment that help our clients continue to be competitive," said Matt Poli, VP of Emerson Marketing, a division of the Emerson Group. "… My hope is that our clients take one or two things out of the day that they could apply to help their business grow."  

With attendance growing at a rate of 15% to 20% each year, the 2014 Retail Industry Day attracted a record-breaking 275 participants. While the day is designed for and geared toward Emerson Group clients, the company's expanding roster of relationships has no doubt resulted in a broader mix of both attendees and presenters compared with prior years. This year's event featured presentations by two well-known retailers: Alex Gourlay, EVP and president of customer intimacy and daily living at Walgreens, and Matthew Martin, VP of marketing at Family Dollar.

"It was really, really terrific for our clients to get two very disparate perspectives on [retailer] strategy, who their core shopper is and where they are headed," said Poli, who kicked off the day's events with opening remarks. "I really think the evolution is in the quality of subject matter experts, retailers' involvement and the content being more and more applicable to the client base."

Additional highlights from the day included:

  • A moving presentation by guest speaker Aron Ralston, an adventurer and wilderness advocate who is known for amputating his arm after becoming trapped by a boulder while hiking in Utah's Blue John Canyon.
  • An insightful session, titled "Finding Patterns in the Pixels: Connecting the Dots to Use Uncertainty to Your Advantage," by Vikram Mansharamani, author, global equity investor and lecturer at Yale University.
  • A data-rich session by Bob Sanders, EVP healthcare practice leader for IRI, titled "The Data is Just the Beginning: How Syndicated Data Creates Fertile Ground for Fresh Insights."
  • A dynamic presentation by Gary Vaynerchuck, entrepreneur, author and CEO of VaynerMedia, titled "On the Right Track but in the Wrong Race: How to Get Customers to Really Care About Your Brand."

"Building content that is specific and unique for small- to medium- sized brands competing in HBC is what is vital. … This day is about bringing new content to help our clients compete," Poli said. "So, content is always key."

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CVS Health Research Institute examines tools to slow cost growth of specialty meds

BY Antoinette Alexander

WOONSOCKET, R.I. — As specialty drug spending continues to rise and is predicted to grow by more than 16% annually from 2015 to 2018, CVS Health researchers examine the reasons for such dramatic increases in spending and discuss tools to help manage these escalating costs in an article published in the October issue of Health Affairs

CVS Health data shows that between 2012 and 2013, spending on specialty drugs increased by 15.6%, while spending on traditional medications grew by only 0.8%. As noted, this trend is only expected to increase, with specialty drug spending predicted to grow by more than 16% annually from 2015 to 2018, ultimately accounting for approximately $235 billion, or more than 50%, of total drug spending by 2018.

“As specialty drugs begin to address the needs of an increasingly broad range of patients across several therapeutic areas, there is a growing need for solutions that drive the best patient outcomes at the lowest costs,” stated Alan M. Lotvin, EVP, CVS/specialty at CVS Health.  “Significant opportunities exist to bend the cost curve of specialty medications by eliminating waste, inducing price competition and reducing or preventing costly complications.”

The article outlines drivers of rising costs, including the increasing complexity and effectiveness of new medications, the changing dynamics of target populations that broaden the pool of patients eligible for treatment and how and where specialty medications are delivered. It examines how approaches that have been successful in managing cost growth for traditional medications over the past 10 years could be applied to specialty medications, while ensuring adherence to clinical guidelines.

“Spending growth in specialty drugs is not a given,” stated Troyen A. Brennan, chief medical officer at CVS Health.  “To slow cost growth, payers must be willing to embrace a variety of strategies used to manage traditional medications as well as some novel approaches that will require a multi-faceted and holistic approach including the collaboration of those who prescribe, dispense, deliver, pay for, and receive specialty medications.”

The authors share insights into cost management strategies that can help achieve the goal of balancing positive health outcomes with reducing sky-rocketing costs. These include applying traditional drug management plan design elements such as prior authorization and step therapy based on evidenced-based medicine, implementation of tiered formularies to stimulate price competition, and utilization of the lowest-cost site of care for delivery and administration of specialty medications.
 

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Walgreens institutes developer challenge to spur Balance Rewards integration in health-focused apps

BY Michael Johnsen

DEERFIELD, Ill. – Walgreens on Monday announced it is conducting a developer contest to encourage integration of its Balance Rewards application program interface (API), which allows users of other apps to earn Balance Rewards loyalty program points for making healthy choices. Rewards points can be redeemed for merchandise in-store or online.
 
“Through our API developer program, we’re able to extend our loyalty program into the digital ecosystem, ultimately reaching more consumers and rewarding them for their healthy activities,” said Abhi Dhar, group VP and chief technology officer, digital, at Walgreens. “By developing more API offerings, we’re continuing to invest in developer relationships and see the value they deliver.”
 
From now through Nov. 28, third-party app developers can access contest details and submit an integrated app entry by visiting the Balance Rewards App Challenge page. Winners will be announced during the Walgreens session at the upcoming mHealth Summit 2014 in Washington D.C., Dec. 7 to 11. 
 
Categories, awards and selection criteria are as follows:
 
  • Walgreens Best Overall App Integration Award ($7,000) – The prize will be based on the quality of the app integration idea, successful integration of the Balance Rewards API and impact for app customers to lead a happy and healthy life;
  • Henry Ford Health System Patient Engagement Award ($3,000) – As a supporter of the challenge, Henry Ford Health System will offer an award that is based on the potential to incent healthy patient behavior and engagement, while increasing or easing the ability to manage chronic conditions. This criteria is in addition to the quality of the app integration idea and successful integration of the Balance Rewards API; and
  • People's Choice for Best App Integration Award ($3,000) – Voted on by ChallengePost users and also will be based on the quality of the app integration idea, successful integration of the Balance Rewards API and impact for app customers to lead a happy and healthy life.
In 2012, Walgreens launched its QuickPrints API, which enabled photo apps to provide users with the convenience of sending photos directly to Walgreens for printing. At that time, less than 1% of the company’s digital print business came from mobile. Today, 40% comes from mobile with more than 125 third-party photo app integrations.
 
The following year, the Prescription API was launched and allowed for seamless prescription refill and transfer capabilities for users of third-party apps. Most recently, Walgreens launched its Balance Rewards API to extend the company’s Balance Rewards for healthy choices program — the first loyalty program to offer consumers rewards for healthy choices.
 
Popular fitness devices and apps such as GenieMD, HoMedics, LifeTrak, Lose It!, Misfit, Nudge, Omron Fitness and RunKeeper have integrated the Balance Rewards API, allowing users to automatically earn points for healthy activities like walking, running and biking.
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