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Health Mart looks to be a partner in independents’ journey to expand clinical services

BY David Salazar

It is by now a well-established fact that the healthcare landscape is currently undergoing a massive shift from a fee-for-service to a value-based payment model, and that will create new opportunities for community pharmacy to play an expanded role in healthcare delivery, helping to drive improved health outcomes and opening up new revenue streams. The challenge for the independent owner is how to implement the host of new clinical services that will be required to participate in this expanded pharmacy care model — and where to begin.

The message from McKesson to Health Mart owners: you need not go it alone.

That is the central idea behind the new Health Mart Pathway to Better Pharmacy Performance and ProfitSM which Health Mart president Steve Courtman unveiled at the Health Mart Annual Meeting on June 28. The Health Mart Pathway — which is simultaneously a way for pharmacists to self-evaluate where they are in shifting their business model and see what resources Health Mart can offer to help achieve their goals — includes five key steps to help independent pharmacies enhance profitability and clinical performance, and demonstrate the value of their services to payers.

The third step in the Health Mart Pathway, adopting medication synchronization, can be absolutely crucial in helping independent pharmacies move toward more robust clinical offerings — from medication therapy management to immunization, diabetes centers and collaborative relationships with local providers — according to a panel of pharmacists moderated by Health Mart chief pharmacist Crystal Lennartz at the Health Mart Annual Meeting last month.

Among the panelists was Tony Willoughby, president of Texas-based Thrive Pharmacy Solutions who, at the panel — and in a separate continuing education session on the subject — noted that his practice was able to anticipate pain points among local providers and partner with them in ways that reduced the office’s workload. “Med sync allowed the provider to see the value his pharmacy could deliver even without a pre-existing partnership,” he said.

“Med sync was the door to open that up, and rather than just go in and give a presentation about all the services that the pharmacy offered, they had more of a discussion about 'What are you seeing, what are your pain points and how can I help with that?’” VP Health Mart network performance Stacey Irving told Drug Store News in a separate interview. “I think we'll see a move toward more of our pharmacies taking that approach with providers.”

But it can take time to get there, and Irving’s team, which includes three pharmacists in the field who work with Health Mart customers to guide them through the process of implementing med sync, is also identifying best practices from these hands-on customer experiences to create new tools that could benefit the broader network.

As that happens, though, Lennartz and Irving both underscored the importance of getting staff onboard in making any operational changes, especially in terms of getting a med sync program off the ground. In fact, getting staff invested in the effort was something that panelist and pharmacist-owner Josh Borer — whose Atlantic, Iowa-based Rex Pharmacy won the McKesson Pharmacy of the Year grand prize award at ideaShare 2016 — said was essential to his pharmacy’s success.

“Patient outcomes were the main focus that everyone bought into, the idea that we can actually make a difference in our community — that was true from the pharmacist to the technician to the cashiers out front,” Borer told Drug Store News. “The entire staff had buy-in because they all played a role in helping identify patients who might be a target for our med sync program. It really included everyone, and I think that was how we got through that challenge of retooling our workflow.”

Lennartz noted that in addition to using Health Mart University, independent pharmacists also can look to each other for guidance — which was the spirit behind both the Health Mart Annual Meeting panel she moderated, as well as several other peer-to-peer sharing sessions and networking events McKesson hosted as part of McKesson ideaShare 2016.

“One of our strengths at Health Mart is the peer-to-peer approach — Health Marts making other Health Marts stronger,” Lennartz said. “We can help provide a baseline of education, but then they share best practices and ideas with each other and help move each other further along.”

The advantages that individual pharmacies see through enhanced clinical performance reverberate through the entire Health Mart network.

“The vision is to not only have scale from a store count perspective, but also to build a high-performance network,” Lennartz said. “And we've been able to make strides with that — more than 44% of our Health Mart customers have one or more Star Rating pharmacy-related quality measures in the top 20%, and that has doubled for us over the last year or so. It takes time to make a change and improve performance, but the message is getting out there and the stores are activating.”

The Health Mart Pathway to Better Pharmacy Performance and ProfitSM will play an integral role in the activation of Health Mart stores and the network, which Irving said “has to do both with the resources it offers and the way it allows pharmacists to break down the task of growing their business into smaller steps — efforts that can add up to a pharmacy over a period of time that at first might be unrecognizable to an owner.

“It's a little overwhelming to say ‘Change your whole business and go to value-based reimbursement and reinvent pharmacy,’” Irving explained. “It's just too much. To hear someone talk about that scale of change, and to think about having to go it alone — that's too big. The Health Mart Pathway breaks it down into smaller, manageable pieces. … So suddenly you're operating at the top of your license, and you realize 'Wow, I’ve accomplished a lot over the last few years but it was in manageable chunks.’”

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SLIDESHOW: Wrapping up McKesson ideaShare 2016

BY DSN STAFF

McKesson ideaShare 2016 wrapped up Tuesday and Wednesday, June 28 to 29, with more CE sessions, Sunrise Sessions, peer networking events, the RxOwnership luncheon and the Public Policy Forum. The event ended with a historic bang for owner/operators and their families at the Final Night Party at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History.

For complete coverage of McKesson ideaShare 2016, click here.

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McKesson Public Policy Forum urges advocacy, briefs independents on key pharmacy issues in Congress

BY Michael Johnsen

Pharmacy advocacy makes a difference.

And while independent pharmacy owners also got perspective on key legislation that could have a profound and lasting impact both on their businesses and the profession of pharmacy, that message was perhaps the most important takeaway from the McKesson ideaShare Public Policy Forum last month in Chicago — advocacy matters.

Moderated by McKesson SVP corporate public affairs Pete Slone, and featuring a special appearance from U.S. Rep. E. L. “Buddy” Carter, R-Ga. — the only member of Congress who is a pharmacist — the Public Policy Forum, which kicked off the last day of business at McKesson ideaShare 2016, offered an important update on key policy issues both currently facing federal lawmakers as well as a look ahead at legislation that is likely to come down the pike.

Carter outlined the bills most critical to the independent retail pharmacy community today, including MAC transparency, any willing provider and provider status. “I may be the only pharmacist currently serving in Congress, but folks we’ve got a lot of friends of pharmacy,” he said. “A lot of those friends are due to your relationship with them. That’s what’s very important.”

To help McKesson’s independent and small- to mid-sized chain customers connect with key lawmakers in their areas and leverage those relationships to help promote and protect pro-pharmacy and pro-patient access related issues, Slone announced the launch of a new advocacy tool, the McKesson Policy Action Network. “Advocacy really does make a difference,” Slone said. “As many as 90% of Congressional staff believes that individual communications from constituents are really what impacts decision-making by members of Congress. Constituent views do matter.”

Housed on the McKesson Connect Community website, the new Policy Action Network “is another way for you to share best practices, generate letters to your elected officials and engage your peers in the policy debate of the day,” Slone explained. “There are more players and more sophisticated players on the field than ever before. It’s increasingly difficult to bring an issue to the forefront in Washington and in state capitals, particularly in the context of 24/7 news cycles. New multi-stakeholder alliances and grassroots efforts are going to have to be the difference maker going forward.”

Joining Carter and Slone on stage for a frank and emotionally-charged peer-to-peer panel discussion, Mary Caldwell, owner of City Pharmacy in Elkton, Md., and Mike Deninger, owner of Towncrest Pharmacy in Iowa City, Iowa, shared stories of how engaging with their local lawmakers, and proactively participating in the legislative process has helped each of their businesses.

Carter briefs DSN on pharmacy-related legislative agenda
Following the Public Policy Forum, Carter sat with Drug Store News for an exclusive interview on the current state of the key policy issues facing community pharmacy.

Regarding provider status — “which is critical if the full cost-savings impact pharmacy can deliver to health care is to be realized,” Congressman Carter explained — “support for the legislation is widespread and growing across both sides of the aisle,” he told DSN.

“The pushback we get from some members of Congress, both in the House and in the Senate, is that we don’t know how much it’s going to cost,” he said. “I don’t see any pushback at all coming from anyone who thinks that it shouldn’t happen. Right now, we’re waiting on the Congressional Budget Office to estimate the price so that we can figure out how we’re going to offset it.”

“While it’s still technically possible that provider status legislation could be signed by the end of the year, it’s much more likely the bill would be passed sometime in 2017,” Congressman Carter said.

Carter also briefed DSN on the status of two other important bills for retail pharmacy — MAC and any willing provider legislation.
“On MAC transparency, we’ve come close to getting that added as an amendment to some bills. I think we’re going to have the opportunity to get that done at some point in the near future,” he said.

“With any willing provider, … we’re going to have to have a strong voice from the rural community, making sure that they are communicating to their legislators just what the problem is,” Congressman Carter said, again urging pharmacy operators to become engaged in the process. For patients living in rural areas, their neighborhood pharmacist may be the only healthcare provider for miles around, he said.

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