Getting a spot at the table by putting advocacy center stage
One thing independent community pharmacists know well is just how big an impact government regulations — from federal and state legislative level to regulatory agencies — have on their businesses. At Good Neighbor Pharmacy’s ThoughtSpot 2016, attendees were able to see the ways AmerisourceBergen advocates for their needs in Washington, D.C., and in state capitols across the country — and they were given a new tool to make advocating on their own behalf a more straightforward process, at a time when being involved is more critical than ever.
“If you don't stay active in the political process, there's definitely going to be a struggle for who gets to share in the healthcare dollars,” AmerisourceBergen President, Chairman and CEO Steve Collis told Drug Store News, noting the company has played a key role in being a voice for independent pharmacy in Washington, D.C., and in the states.
AmerisourceBergen’s advocacy on behalf of community pharmacy has been focused on several big issues at the federal level, while also keeping an eye on activity from the states. One of the main focuses has been provider status, which would designate pharmacists as providers under Medicare Part B, allowing them to be reimbursed for certain services. The bipartisan bill currently has 592 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives and 49 co-sponsors in the Senate, and is currently waiting for a cost assessment from the Congressional Budget Office.
AmerisourceBergen is tackling other issues around reimbursement, in particular direct and indirect remuneration fees. DIR fees, which were a key issue brought up at ThoughtSpot 2016 by attendees, are assessed by payers and pharmacy benefits managers, and sometimes aren’t completed until months after a sale is made, leaving pharmacists uncertain whether they lost or made money on a prescription. AmerisourceBergen’s Elevate Provider Network has signed a letter urging CMS to estimate these fees at point of sale.
“The critical issues like reimbursements, access to patients, provider status — making sure that there's the recognition pharmacies deserve and need to have to continue providing health care and access — are our fundamental pillars every day as we think about legislation at the federal and state level, and policies coming out of CMS,” AmerisourceBergen Vice President of Policy Stacie Heller told Drug Store News. Heller, alongside State Government Affairs Director Julie Eddy and Government Affairs Director Jason Money, gave a continuing education (CE) presentation during ThoughtSpot that outlined key issues facing pharmacy and how to advocate for the profession.
One of the pharmacists at Heller’s CE also happened to know first-hand the work it takes to create legislation with pharmacy in mind. Rep. Earl “Buddy” Carter — the only pharmacist in Congress — was on hand at the CE session to take attendee questions and urge pharmacists to be their own advocate by reaching out to their state and federal representatives, trying to meet with them and even asking legislators to visit a practice setting to gain better knowledge of the way their business works and the impact it can have.
“Like it or not, politics plays a big part in our profession and it has a big impact on our practice — and we have to be involved,” Carter told Drug Store News. “The old saying goes if you're not at the table, you're on the menu. We need to be at the table and make sure we're taking up [our cause] for ourselves. … It's important to [pharmacists], too, that they know they've got an advocate in Congress — and it's not just me. We've got a lot of good friends in Congress, and we need to make sure we're nurturing and growing those friendships.”
On the show floor, Carter was introduced to AmerisourceBergen’s new website for pharmacy advocacy, Our Independent Voice. Our Independent Voice offers users overviews of the biggest issues affecting pharmacy — both retail and long-term care pharmacy — including provider status and fair reimbursement. It also allows them to find their legislators by ZIP code and government level, while also providing a customizable letter template for reaching out to representatives.
“We're working to establish a conversation starter," Heller said. "We want to make sure that this is a tool that provides a communication or dialogue, … [and] that we're providing a comprehensive look at all the issues that resonate with both independent retail and long-term care pharmacy."
“[Our Independent Voice] is a place where all our customers can go and learn about issues,” Bob Mauch, president of AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation, told Drug Store News. “They can comment, give us feedback and find their legislators if they want to contact them.”
“It’s a big area of emphasis for us,” Mauch added. “If you are an independent pharmacist, or a pharmacy at all, you need to be active in Washington, D.C., and we are doing everything we can to facilitate that.”
Nightengale focuses on delivering value to independent pharmacy in new role
Brian Nightengale, the new President of Good Neighbor Pharmacy, emphasized AmerisourceBergen’s commitment to independent pharmacy and delivering value to its customers at his first ThoughtSpot tradeshow this year.
“I believe Good Neighbor Pharmacy has a big role to play in the success and growth of our community customers,” Nightengale shared with Drug Store News in an exclusive interview at ThoughtSpot 2016. “What I hope to accomplish with our team is that as we continue to grow and provide really important services through Good Neighbor Pharmacy, that we deliver a best-in-class customer experience for our pharmacies, and that the solutions and services are strategically relevant to their business strategy.”
Infusing relevance into everything that Good Neighbor Pharmacy provides its member pharmacies is an oft-repeated theme among AmerisourceBergen executives. “Working together as partners, we’re growing together,” Nightengale said. “[For example], there’s a lot going on out there in the reimbursement space, and we need to help our pharmacies be economically viable and competitive in the future.”
Last year AmerisourceBergen introduced the Elevate Provider Network, which bundles managed care services with pre- and post-edit, reconciliation and a patient engagement center to help track and manage Star ratings, MTM and patient adherence. “Since launching Elevate Provider Network last year, more than 2,300 of our members have taken full advantage of all of the features of our network, driving growth and improving outcomes in their pharmacies,” Nightengale told attendees at ThoughtSpot 2016. And member pharmacies are outperforming the overall market, including chains, to the tune of 3.4% year-over-year prescription growth vs. 1.9% growth industry-wide.
AmerisourceBergen provides a number of solutions to its independent owners, most notably its Good Neighbor Pharmacy Premier program, which provides expert business guidance on how to tactically manage a community pharmacy operation, from marketing and advertising to customer service and inventory management. “Through one-on-one coaching, Good Neighbor Pharmacy Premier is the most effective program we offer to our independent pharmacy customers,” Nightengale said. Premier pharmacies decreased on-hand inventory by 12% without compromising customer service and realized a 5% increase in sales-per-employee on average, Nightengale noted. “[These] are just two proof points of the impact that our premier-level services can have on your practice and profit margin.”
Good Neighbor Pharmacy has invested in several programs, Nightengale added, including a 17-store pilot program in the Dallas market that features an optimized front-end planogram that’s driving a 5% increase in unit sales vs. a control group. In addition, there is the POS At-A-Glance Report Card, the Temporary Price Reduction Program and Good Neighbor Pharmacy TV.
Good Neighbor Pharmacy is also supporting immunization efforts and extensions into specialty pharmacy.
Nightengale is rooted in independent pharmacy, he shared at the ThoughtSpot 2016 General Session. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma College of Pharmacy in 1990 following the influence of a family friend, who was a local independent pharmacist.
“I grew up in a very small farming community and [at first] wanted to be a veterinarian,” he said. But a day spent with Rick Hill, a pharmacist at Scheffe’s Pharmacy in Enid, Okla., changed all of that. “After shadowing him for a day, and a transformational dinner discussion, I changed my major the next week,” he said. “Over the next 10 years, I worked for three outstanding independent pharmacists who taught me the importance of putting patients first, being innovative and embracing an entrepreneurial spirt.”
In addition to Good Neighbor Pharmacy, Nightengale will oversee AmerisourceBergen’s PSAO, the Elevate Provider Network, which is comprised of more than 4,500 pharmacies.
Nightengale brings to both Good Neighbor Pharmacy and the Elevate Provider Network an expertise in pharmacy reimbursement. He was most recently president of Xcenda, where he guided the company in its mission to deliver the strategic consulting guidance, actionable market insights and tactical support services that manufacturers need to optimize product launches and ensure optimal patient access to those products. He provides expertise and insights related to market access strategies, health economics and comparative effectiveness research.
Nightengale also serves on the National Community Pharmacists Association’s Innovation Center Board of Directors, where he helps develop and execute education and empowerment tools to help community pharmacists realize the opportunities in an evolving healthcare market.
And while Nightengale is a welcome addition to the Good Neighbor Pharmacy team, AmerisourceBergen’s top brass shared a heartfelt farewell to outgoing president Dave Neu, who is retiring after a storied 34-year career. “His accomplishments are too many to mention in just a few moments. But what we can say is that Dave has been a tremendous business leader in the healthcare industry and advocate for you and your essential craft — a legacy that we will carry forward and build upon,” noted Steve Collis, AmerisourceBergen Chairman, President and CEO.
ThoughtSpot 2016 puts focus on patient care
When he took the stage at Good Neighbor Pharmacy’s ThoughtSpot 2016 General Session, AmerisourceBergen Chairman, President and CEO Steve Collis shared with attendees that though pharmacy is going through a period of change and consolidation, and that independent community pharmacists are uniquely positioned to capitalize on these changes. Their main asset, he said, is the ability to set themselves apart through their patient-centered approach and relationship-driven care.
“As daunting as industry consolidation may be, there are ample opportunities for community pharmacy to sustain and grow its critical role in patient care,” Collis said before highlighting two patient care trends: a population with 1-in-4 people being 60 years old or older and a more collaborative interaction expected between patients and health providers.
The need to focus on patients was central to ThoughtSpot 2016’s theme — Time for Care. According to AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation President Bob Mauch, the main way the company and Good Neighbor Pharmacy ensure pharmacists have time for their patients is by being a strategic partner that can meet its customers needs. Mauch said these needs are partially gleaned from working in the field talking to customers, a process that led the company to conclude that patient care was the independent pharmacist’s top priority, and “that if it's most important for our customers, then it's most important to us.”
“The service we provide is about making sure [pharmacists] have time to care for their patients,” Mauch told Drug Store News. “They shouldn't have to worry about what's going on with the wholesaler. They should be 100% sure that a product is going to show up, and they'll have it to treat the patient that day. … Every decision we make, there's a patient on the end of it, and therefore, we make better decisions as a result.”
ThoughtSpot 2016’s Innovation & Technology showcase gave attendees an overview of the technological offerings they have access to through Good Neighbor Pharmacy and the Elevate Provider Network that help them care for patients. Among the tools available is the PrescribeWellness-powered Patient Engagement Center, which uses claim-level patient data to help pharmacists track adherence.
The Patient Engagement Center (pictured above) can identify patients between 70% and 80% adherent, allowing the pharmacists to see which patients can quickly be brought to 80% adherence and allowing them to focus on other patients. Users also can sort patients to view different adherence levels by disease state. In addition to the Patient Engagement Center, PrescribeWellness offers pharmacies PrescribeMedicare, a tool that helps patients who are Medicare beneficiaries choose the best plan for them.
Continuing education (CE) courses throughout ThoughtSpot 2016 also emphasized how to make patient-centered care a priority. CE courses about putting the customer first went beyond the pharmacy counter, with AmerisourceBergen retail business coach Paul Satterfield broadening the definition of care to the front of store in his CE sessions. The most important thing Satterfield emphasized across his courses was the potential in a companion sale — a pharmacist-suggested OTC product that the pharmacist places in the patient’s hand.
According to the JD Power 2015 Pharmacy Study*, 57% of Good Neighbor Pharmacy’s customers, who speak to a pharmacist, spend more on OTC purchases. The return for a strong pharmacy experience is clear. The key for pharmacists, according to Good Neighbor Pharmacy Vice President of Business Coaching and Pharmacy Ownership, Jennifer Zilka, is seeing this as an additional component of providing the best care.
“They're clinicians and when they're suggesting, or upselling a product, they feel like they're doing just that,” Zilka told Drug Store News. “And we encourage them to look at it not as a “sales-y” approach, rather as making sure the patient has everything they need to be healthy. … It's another opportunity for pharmacists to engage patients clinically — and reinforce their position as a source of care in their community.”
Elevate Provider Network Patient Engagement Center
*J.D. Power, McGraw Hill Financial, 2015 U.S. Pharmacy Study