Health Mart tops for service, patient care
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.
Resilient Kroger readies for recovery
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.
Costco focuses on Rx as U.S. sales soar
Many analysts have voiced concern that despite numerous indications of a slow, but healthy, economic recovery in the United States, growth in the number of jobs has lagged, even as it has exceeded economists’ expectations.
But another indicator that the economy is picking up speed is U.S. sales growth at Costco Wholesale, the members-only mass merchandiser based in Issaquah, Wash. For fiscal 2010, sales at the company’s 424 U.S. stores — which the company officially calls warehouses — were $59.6 billion, compared with $56.5 billion in 2009.
Most of the company’s sales come from its famous bulk-sized packages of various consumer packaged goods and such products as furniture and food. But prescriptions at the pharmacies still accounted for a steady percentage of sales, at $1.5 billion, while nonprescription pharmacy items, like over-the-counter drugs, had sales of $1.7 billion.
The company also has ramped up online pharmacy retailing. “Costco continues to expand physical infrastructure and continues to make improvements to the online ordering experience for pharmacy customers,” Costco SVP pharmacy Vic Curtis told Drug Store News. “With mail-order, specialty and retail business growing nicely year over year, the further integration of e-commerce solutions is important for Costco members.”
Costco also has introduced such initiatives as the Costco Member Prescription Program for uninsured Americans and the Costco Pharmacy Benefit Partnership, a prescription benefit program. In addition, the retailer has plans to introduce such services as refill reminders and automatic refills.
“Even though we rate at or near the top in customer surveys, we think we can do even better,” Curtis said. “This not only includes the in-warehouse experience, but also with regard to making it easier to use Costco pharmacy online refills [and] pickup in warehouse, status check [and] pickup reminders.”