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Enough hope to float health reform?

BY Rob Eder

As a journalist, it’s my job to be a hopeless cynic, whose pessimism at times borders on paranoia. It’s not a question of whether the glass is half-full or half-empty; the glass is cracked, leaking and getting less full all the time. All I want to know is who broke the glass, and even more than that, who has the best idea for putting the glass back together before the last drops of my optimism spill away and are lost forever.

That aside, I must confess I got pretty excited earlier this month when the White House began meeting with some key stakeholders about how the private sector can lead the way on health reform. First it was the American Medical Association, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the American Hospital Association, America’s Health Insurance Plans and the Service Employees Union International on May 11. A day earlier, this group made major news when it announced it could help save $2 trillion over the next 10 years by bringing new efficiencies to health care that would trim rising costs by about 1.5% a year.

Skeptics say they will believe it when they see it. Ted Marmour, a professor at Yale University’s School of Management, called it “wishful thinking.” He told “ABC News,” “No one should believe either that the industry representatives can, even if they wished, control the behavior of their groups.”

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said he only cares what the Congressional Budget Office thinks of those figures. President Obama says he expects these groups to keep their promise.

On May 12, Obama met with representatives from five public companies, including Safeway and Johnson & Johnson, to hear some of the innovative ideas these companies have come up with for how to provide better healthcare options for their employees that are producing better health outcomes and improving the overall profitability of their companies. That’s because they aren’t just focused on eliminating the fat from their healthcare costs; they are more focused on helping their employees eliminate fat from their mid-sections, and to quit smoking, eat right and exercise, as well as get their blood pressure, lipid counts and glucose levels in check.

That’s why I suddenly find myself so optimistic. Because if the President has liked what he has heard so far from the private sector, he’s going to love the story this industry has to tell. The story about how 227,000 community pharmacists can save this country $177 billion a year just by getting people to take their medications as prescribed.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. “The proper use of medication becomes even more important as treatment of chronic disease costs the healthcare system $1.3 trillion annually, or about 75 cents of every healthcare dollar,” a consortium of national pharmacy professional and trade groups wrote in a December 2008 white paper that defined the pharmacy industry’s core principles for healthcare reform.

At this point, I can’t tell if the glass is half-full or half-empty. But I think there’s just enough left in the glass to float this idea that the private sector in general, and retail pharmacy in particular, can lead the way on health reform.

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CVS opens Beauty360 No.3 in one of its original Project Life stores

BY DSN STAFF

NEW YORK — If anyone thinks that CVS has recast itself solely as a healthcare company, given its string of acquisitions in recent years — particularly, Caremark and MinuteClinic — they probably haven’t seen a Beauty360 store yet. In fact, standing in the middle of one of these 3,000 sq.-ft., high-end beauty boutiques, you might have a hard time recognizing you were in a CVS store at all.

Beauty360 is the culmination of the long-time vision and an awful lot of hard work on the part of several key individuals, most notably, CVS’ top merchant Mike Bloom, VP beauty merchandising Cheryl Mahoney, senior beauty category manager Mary Lou Gardner and Mike LePage, director, retail innovations and store design. Importantly, it is also a very bold statement that, for as much energy as CVS Caremark devotes to driving solutions that save lots of money for big payers of health care, it is very much still focused on its stores, and using other areas beyond health and wellness to spark innovation and create reasons for customers to shop their stores.

You want to talk about growing the market basket? How about adding a whole other basket? With prices on many items topping $100, Beauty360’s contribution to overall store profitability is palpable. According to CVS executives, sales in the two other locations the company operates in Mission Viejo, Calif., and Washington, D.C., are well ahead of expectations.

And why wouldn’t they be? No woman in her right mind, with at least a minute or two to spare, isn’t going to check out Beauty360 — particularly in the ritzy neighborhoods the chain is putting the stores in. The average household income in Mission Viejo is roughly twice the national average; in terms of shopping, Fodor’s calls Dupont Circle “a younger, less staid version of Georgetown — and almost as pricey”; and the newest Beauty360 in Ridgefield, Conn., is surrounded by seven-figure homes. Bloom says CVS is planning to a whole bunch of them into the former Longs stores it is currently converting, which includes many more posh areas to pick from.

With just 30 of the stores planned by the end of the year, and about 50 by this time next year, it likely will be a while before the impact of Beauty360 begins to be seen in CVS’ earnings. In the meantime, you can expect sales per square foot to balloon in the stores that share a roof with a Beauty360.

Beauty360 is an important message to its competitors that CVS hasn’t forgotten about the importance of creating excitement in its stores.

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SDI launches iPhone, iPod application for allergy sufferers

BY DSN STAFF

NEW YORK The addition of SDI’s Pollen.com allergy applications to the growing number of iPhone/iPod touch-friendly, health-related applications is just the latest example of how an e-health evolution is more and more becoming a part of America’s daily lexicon.

 

Already, there are more than 100 health-related applications available for the Apple products, including FDA for iPhone and WebMD Mobile. According to Apple COO Tim Cook, those apps are available to some 37 million users — that’s how many iPhones and iPod touches are currently on the market.

 

 

Concerned about what exactly those food additives in your favorite snack are? There’s an app for that. Worried about your blood pressure or heart rate? There’s an app for that. Want to know what your blood-sugar level means? There’s an app for that, too.

 

Indeed, while SDI was preparing for its official Pollen.com iPhone app launch, two Northwestern University teams took home the top two prizes awarded in the Diabetes Mine Design Challenge last week. The challenge? Develop an iPhone app that diabetics could use to help manage their condition.

 

Next month, Apple plans to release an updated iPhone 3.0 with support for Bluetooth-enabled medical peripheral devices, like Johnson & Johnson’s LifeScan glucometer. And while Apple is updating its iPhone capabilities, Palm will be introducing its Palm Pre, slated to debut June 6 on the Sprint network. The Palm Pre is expected to give Apple’s iPhone a run for its money, but at the very least, it’ll open the door of health-related mobile apps to that many more users.

 

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