PHARMACY

Health Mart tops for service, patient care

BY Michael Johnsen


In the May issue of Consumer Reports, a report found that such independents as McKesson’s Health Mart franchise group are delivering the goods.


McKesson helped capitalize on what has always been an exemplary Health Mart patient experience at the top of last year with a multi-
million-dollar ad campaign that included an ad during the New Orleans Saints/Indianapolis Colts Super Bowl. That 2010 campaign featured real Health Mart pharmacists with stories on how they have impacted their local communities by taking the time to care and provide special services.


Along with Bayer Diabetes Care and Novo Nordisk, Health Mart in 2010 also kicked off the Health Mart Healthy Living Tour, a national diabetes awareness and health screening tour focused on the role of pharmacists partnering in diabetes care. “The program featured a mobile screening unit that traveled across the country to raise diabetes awareness through free health screenings and education,” explained Tim Canning, Health Mart president. “The tour … emphasized the key role of pharmacists in diabetes care, encouraging consumers to initiate healthy conversations with their community pharmacists,” he said. “As a result of focusing on greater-risk communities across many different states, 49.7% of the tour patients screened were identified as at risk for diabetes.”


While Consumer Reports features Health Mart as a good example of the kind of experience patients are finding at independents, the network also has been recognized for its outstanding service elsewhere. J.D. Power in February named Health Mart as 1-of-the-40 companies that was a J.D. Power 2011 Customer Service Champion. “When this was announced, Leslie Sauzek, owner of Moody Health Mart Pharmacy in Sparta, Ill., commented on how the fact that Health Mart provides locally owned pharmacies with a national identity helped make it possible for the network to be recognized by consumers on a national level,” Canning noted.


Health Mart epitomizes the best of both ends of the pharmacy service spectrum: the small-town service of a pharmacist active within their community and the branding and efficiency driven by such technology as EnterpriseRx that typically is associated with much larger pharmacy chain competitors. “Our EnterpriseRx pharmacy management system helps pharmacy staff manage their workload more efficiently with Promise Time Workflow, which makes sure the right person is doing the right task at the right time,” Canning said. “This helps ensure that the pharmacy is running as efficiently as possible with the technicians focused on labeling, counting and filling, while the pharmacist focuses on prescription validation, as well as patient and physician consultations.”


“The workflow [associated with EnterpriseRx] has allowed us to be more organized, which has drastically increased our ability to have more patient care,” reported Katie Butt Beckart, president of Butt Drugs Health Mart Pharmacy, in a recent McKesson video. 


Pharmacy automation tools, such as Parata Systems, also help spring the Health Mart pharmacy operator from behind the bench to provide more healthcare services, such as diabetes counseling and medication therapy management. In Wisconsin, for example, McKesson’s Health Mart locations are piloting an MTM program that electronically connects pharmacists with the physician, the payer and the patient to help drive consistent outcomes. Those kinds of intervention services can realize savings between $500 and $1,500 for participating payers, and as much as $450 in savings for the patient, McKesson has reported.

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Cardinal reinforces true ‘independence’

BY Jim Frederick

Embrace diversity. You don’t have to be Leader to be a leader.


That is Cardinal Health’s modern message to its roughly 6,300 independent pharmacy customers that aren’t members of its franchise division of Medicine Shoppe and Medicap pharmacies. In a gradual but sweeping shift in how it goes to market, the wholesale and health services giant has reduced its emphasis on the Leader store brand in favor of a new approach to the pharmacy market on behalf of its sprawling base of independent pharmacies. While not in any sense abandoning the Leader logo or its marketing and ad circular programs, Cardinal has developed a more customized and store-specific approach to its retail network that encourages each pharmacy owner-operator to fully develop his or her own brand and local market identity.


Cardinal’s customers can still participate in all Leader programs, and many do, says company spokeswoman Tara Schumacher. But independents by nature want to trade on their own brand of personal service and their own good name to build customer loyalty. Cardinal, she said, has realigned its independent pharmacy division under Steve Lawrence, SVP independent sales and marketing. The new paradigm: customer-specific flexibility in marketing, merchandising and store support.


That new, let-the-owner-decide-what’s-best approach is what greeted the roughly 2,000 independent pharmacists who swelled Cardinal’s customer ranks when the company finalized its buyout of Kinray, the nation’s largest independently owned drug wholesaler, early this year. And for those owner-operators accustomed to Kinray’s highly individualized and high-touch brand of service, the change must have been a welcomed one.


Under Cardinal’s new strategy, “if an independent pharmacy wants to market itself under what it perceives is a broader brand, but wants to be an independent pharmacy and not a franchise, they can still have all the Leader program materials — store banners, signs, circulars,” Schumacher told Drug Store News. “But instead of encouraging customers to become Leader stores, we now offer local store marketing services, where we’ll help any customer build awareness of their own store name.”


“We’re focused more on growing our independent base of customers, not necessarily on growing the number of Leader customers,” she added. “It’s about whatever makes the most sense to our customers’ businesses. So if an independent pharmacy wants to market themselves as Joe’s Pharmacy, we’ll support them in that; if they want to market themselves as Joe’s Leader Pharmacy, we’ll help them with that, too.”


The shift in approach culminated on July 23, 2010, when Cardinal unveiled a broad set of new applications designed to help independents compete far more effectively under their own hard-won marketplace identities. Cardinal called it “the industry’s first fully customizable suite of marketing tools that enable independent pharmacists to build and market their own brand within their communities — without having to tie their marketing efforts to a national banner program.”


The change was based on “extensive customer research [that] told us that an increasing number of retail pharmacies want to be able to exclusively market their own store names in their local communities,” Lawrence said. “But until now, they haven’t had easy-to-use, quality marketing tools that can help them do that in a cost-effective way.”


Now available to Cardinal’s customers:


Customized store websites that can feature a store’s full brand identity, along with online order refills integrated with a store’s pharmacy system and tie-ins with commercials, store circulars and other marketing activities;


Cardinal’s new in-store radio system, which allows for store-specific ads;


A new, customizable in-store signage and circular system;


A new outbound calling system to help pharmacies improve patient relationships and medication adherence, linked to the store’s pharmacy system for reference tracking; and


A new series of radio and TV ads that can be customized to promote an individual store’s brand, products and services.


“A lot of our customers have said, ‘we like the brand equity we have.’ So now the marketing materials can reflect just that,” Schumacher said.

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Resilient Kroger readies for recovery

BY Jim Frederick

In retailing, it’s a given that a long-term, severe recession will cut through the ranks of food, drug and general merchandise retailers like a scythe through wheat, pushing weaker players out of the market as consumer spending dries up and Darwinian realities winnow the field. But it’s also true that the strongest merchants can emerge not only intact, but also with even brighter prospects if they innovate, invest and retain the loyalty of their customers.


Clearly, Kroger belongs in the latter category. The Cincinnati-based supermarket and combo-store behemoth weathered a tough 2010 with a 2.8% increase in same-store sales across its multifaceted retail empire and net earnings of more than $1.1 billion. The company also increased share of grocery sales by 80 basis points, according to Nielsen research, and in the final months of the fiscal year ended Jan. 29, 2011, appeared to regain momentum in drug and non-food sales.


“Kroger’s business proved resilient in 2010, weathering a challenging environment that continued to affect many of our customers,” said chairman and CEO David Dillon in March. “We were particularly pleased to see solid growth in our drug/general merchandise department where sales had softened during the recession as customers scaled back discretionary purchases.”


Sadly, the start of Kroger’s new fiscal year also witnessed the loss of one of its top pharmacy and non-food executives, EVP Don Becker, a 42-year company veteran who died unexpectedly in February at 62 years old. Becker oversaw drug, grocery and general merchandise buying, marketing and merchandising, and also was responsible for The Little Clinic operations.


Dillon called Becker a “dear friend and extraordinary leader” who “leaves a legacy of enthusiasm and passion for doing what’s right.”


Despite that major setback, Kroger appears to be laying a solid foundation for continued success. The company operates 1,950 in-store pharmacies that filled nearly 140 million prescriptions in 2010.


Besides a strong presence in the flagship Kroger combo stores, that pharmacy network sprawls across a complex web of such regional chains as King Soopers in Colorado, Ralphs in California, Smith’s Food & Drug Centers in Utah, Fry’s Food & Drug in Arizona and Fred Meyer in Oregon.


In 2010, Kroger also purchased its erstwhile partner in walk-in patient-care centers, The Little Clinic. The buyout gave it control of one of the nation’s largest operators of retail-based clinics, with 77 professional centers in select Kroger, Fry’s and King Soopers stores in Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arizona and Colorado. The company also provides management for 40 branded clinics in Florida and Georgia.


In the midst of a tough economy, Kroger also invested a total of roughly $2 billion last year in store remodeling, the Little Clinic purchase, new technology and other improvements. Steady investments in automation have helped transform the pharmacy, where pharmacists in any of its stores and operating companies can see into any customer’s patient profile and prescription record via its nationally integrated pharmacy automation platform. That system, called the EasyFill Pharmacy Retail Network, allows pharmacists “a single view of the patient across Kroger,” according to Chris Hjelm, SVP and CIO. The system also tracks all pharmacy transactions in real time, he said, so “we know when a prescription is sold, not just filled.”


Kroger’s pharmacy team also continues to expand pharmacy and clinic-based services, including a variety of immunizations and biometric screenings for such conditions as diabetes, hyperlipidemia and obesity. Some Kroger pharmacists also now participate in long-term programs for diabetes management, education and coaching, in coordination with registered dietitians and certified diabetes educators.


Kroger also continues to wield one of retailing’s most effective loyalty card programs. The company reported that more than 90% of its customer transactions now involve the use of the Kroger card.

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