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McKesson e-nables community pharmacy patient-, peer-engagement through social, mobile and web technologies

BY Rob Eder

LAS VEGAS — McKesson, one of the largest healthcare services companies in the country, on Monday extended its technology solutions to change the way community pharmacies collaborate, communicate and share information with customers and peers.

The new offerings, which debuted at McKesson’s annual ideaShare Conference, here at Las Vegas’ Venetian Resort — including the rapid adoption of the McKesson Connect Community, a professional networking site for pharmacy staff, as well as the new mobile capabilities of ScriptAlert and Health Mart’s new digital offering Your Pharmacy Online — give community pharmacy owners additional tools to help improve the way they run their business and enhance the way they care for their patients.

“Retail pharmacists are quickly realizing that social, mobile and Web platforms enable them to become more efficient while delivering better care to their patients,” said Brian Tyler, president of McKesson U.S. Pharmaceutical. “Community pharmacy owners continue to turn to McKesson to help them achieve better business health. By focusing on innovation and delivering technology solutions that are tailored for community pharmacy, our customers can connect with their patients and peers in entirely new ways.”

Taking a closer look, the new digital and mobile capabilities include:

• ScriptAlert: A new, robust direct-to-patient text messaging and mobile application that help independent pharmacy owners improve medication adherence, strengthen patient relationships and drive additional revenue with cost-effective technology. ScriptAlert provides patients with text-based refill reminders, refill notifications and auto-fill options, as well as a mobile prescription-management application that feeds directly into the pharmacy’s dispensing system.

"As we launch the ScriptAlert mobile application to give community pharmacies the ability to offer the convenience of on-the-go prescription management, we are very excited to highlight the pilot results, which show that patients using ScriptAlert could refill between one and two additional prescriptions a year*,” said Darren O’Neill, senior director of McKesson U.S. Pharmaceutical.  “Not only does this demonstrate strong potential to improve patient adherence, but also represents a lift in prescription revenue.”

“I have patients of all ages who are embracing the convenience of technology,” said Shelley Bailey, owner of Central Drugs in Portland, Ore. “ScriptAlert will allow me to provide my patients with choice and convenience built on advanced technology that is easy to implement and cost-effective.”

• McKesson Connect Community: Since launching in fall 2011, McKesson Connect Community has connected more than 1,500 members, including community pharmacy owners, pharmacists and technicians. Members gain access to the McKesson Connect Community through McKesson Connect, McKesson’s online pharmaceutical-ordering portal.

Members from across the country have participated in more than 500 discussions on McKesson Connect Community, leveraging the platform to share knowledge on such key pharmacy issues as protecting their reimbursements, finding new sources of revenue with additional clinical and pharmacy services, and growing their customer base.

“I had been looking for a fast, easy way to connect with other Health Mart and independent-pharmacy owners to share information and best practices, as I have many ideas, but few peers nearby to ask questions and share feedback with,” said Tom Wullstein, Pharm.D., Brandon Health Mart in Brandon, S.D. “I jumped onto the McKesson Connect Community immediately after it was launched and was probably one of the first 20 pharmacists to join. Now, I regularly respond to inquiries from other members and post questions — the answers to which have generated several new marketing ideas that have dramatically improved my business. McKesson Connect Community is a great destination for pharmacists seeking answers and knowledge from a community of their peers.”

• Your Pharmacy Online: Health Mart’s new consumer-facing online platform enables pharmacy owners to stay better connected with their patients, while still allowing each Health Mart pharmacy owner to showcase their own pharmacy’s distinctive personality and services. Through Your Pharmacy Online, Health Mart owners can attract new customers by customizing their online presence to promote events and promotions; maximize the value of existing customers by giving them more options to connect and refill prescriptions from their mobile devices, and giving the pharmacy more ways to connect with them via text messages and email refill reminders; and enhances business efficiency by feeding online refills directly into their pharmacy-management systems.

For more information on all of McKesson’s announcements from McKesson ideaShare 2012, please visit McKesson’s online newsroom at www.mckesson.com/newsroom.

* SOURCE: McKesson Clinical Analytics 2012. Based on 596 enrolled patients.
 

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Thinking globally: Will it work for WAG?

BY Jim Frederick

Is Walgreens’ decision to buy a major stake in European drug store giant Alliance Boots a good idea?

It could be — provided the combined entity, which would comprise the world’s biggest drug retailer and biggest purchaser of pharmaceuticals — successfully can leverage the unique strengths of each company, apply them to their respective markets and reap the billion dollars in synergistic savings Walgreens is predicting will occur by 2016. But for a company with no experience in European retailing and plenty of homefront headaches to deal with in mid-2012, spending $6.7 billion in cash and stock for a 45% stake in Boots is a big leap into the unknown.

Walgreens already operates drug stores in Puerto Rico and Guam. But ever since the company sold its Sanborns division in Mexico to Grupo Carso 30 years ago, its leaders have airily dismissed the notion — proposed by many retail analysts and reporters — of jumping outside the United States or its protectorates for new growth opportunities.

A succession of top company executives — from former chairman and CEO Cork Walgreen III to Fred Canning, Dan Jorndt, David Bernauer, Jeff Rein and current president and CEO Greg Wasson — traditionally have insisted there was no compelling need for the nation’s top drug chain to look beyond its own borders for growth. The rationale — that there still were too many rich veins of potential business to mine in too many cities and towns at “the corner of Main and Main” across the U.S. — made sense for a company able to open hundreds of fast-maturing new stores each year, notch more than 30 consecutive years of record profits, and reap same-store sales gains that were the envy of other retailers.

Those days are over. For Walgreens, which now competes against a slew of powerful national and local competitors with more than 7,800 pharmacies in all 50 states, much of the low-hanging expansion fruit has been picked, either by Walgreens or by its rivals. More pressing for the company is its costly divorce from pharmacy benefit management giant Express Scripts, many of whose millions of plan members are now getting their prescriptions filled elsewhere after the two companies failed to come to terms over reimbursement rates.

Add to that the still-tepid economic recovery and the serious challenge posed by its biggest rivals, CVS Caremark, Walmart and Rite Aid, all of which are making hay over the January termination of the Walgreens-Express Scripts contract by aggressively courting the drug store chain’s customers, and it’s perhaps no surprise that Walgreens’ leaders are thinking globally.

Wall Street investors clearly didn’t like the idea of a Walgreens-Alliance Boots merger, as seen by WAG’s falling stock price early last week. But don’t count the big guy out. Walgreens has more than a century of experience riding out tough economic times and competitive challenges. And it has plenty of weapons in its arsenal, with or without the addition of Boots: A rock-solid balance sheet, cash to invest, seasoned leadership, powerful economies of scale and a strategic determination to put its retail and specialty pharmacies, health clinics and employer-based health centers at the epicenter of a new, fully integrated healthcare system.

What do our readers think? Was WAG’s deal with Boots a bold and farsighted move to stake out a bigger piece of the world market for health, personal care and beauty products and services in the era of globalization, or a sign of desperation in the face of a challenging domestic market? We’d like to hear your views.

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McKesson ideaShare 2012 kicks off with a bang

BY Rob Eder

LAS VEGAS — Day one here at McKesson ideaShare 2012 and the thousands of independent pharmacists and pharmacy owners from all across the country who convened here Monday, at the Las Vegas’ Venetian Resort, looking for business-building solutions and industry to help them stay relevant and differentiate themselves with their customers and patients, were not disappointed.

“By bringing together owners and leaders from across the country to share ideas and best practices, McKesson is helping community pharmacy owners and pharmacists achieve better business health and better patient care, in addition to better connecting them with their communities” said Brian Tyler, president of McKesson U.S. Pharmaceutical. “McKesson fully believes in the future of community pharmacy, and ideaShare is one of the best opportunities for us to engage with our customers to understand their growth goals and specific needs.”

Indeed, McKesson ideaShare 2012 kicked off with a very BIG bang, with a heightened focus around several key areas, including:

• Growing the pharmacy patient base:
Retail independent pharmacy owners who do not have the advertising budget of a chain drug store are implementing business tools such as the Physician Outreach Program (POP) that allow them to identify and promote their unique capabilities to prescribers and patients. POP — which launched last year to Health Mart pharmacies — is now available to all McKesson independent and regional retail customers. Independent pharmacies looking to connect with the broader healthcare team in their communities and seize new opportunities to attract new patients can now access more than 1 million prescriber records to tailor their marketing strategies.

“McKesson’s Physician Outreach Program gives our pharmacy a clear-cut approach for who we need to target and who we need to have a business relationship with in the community,” said Snehal Patel, PharmD, Health Shoppe Pharmacy, East Brunswick, N.J. “In the past we always worried about taking care of the patient, thinking the rest will follow. Now we know it isn’t just about the patient — we have to fit in the triad of care of physicians, patients and pharmacists. This program allows us to do that.”

• Growing the pharmacy future: According to the National Community Pharmacists Association, after decades of declining numbers, independently owned community pharmacies are on the rebound, and growing in strength. McKesson’s RxOwnership program, dedicated to providing independent pharmacy owners, prospective owners and pharmacy students with the tools to help them map out their future, supported 288 startups in its fiscal year 2012.

“Every pharmacist has a different future in mind when it comes to their business goals,” said Bob Graul, national VP McKesson RxOwnership. “From considering pharmacy ownership to expanding to multiple locations to exiting the market, pharmacists can benefit from our experienced advisers, in addition to our one-of-a-kind tools that help guide them through the ownership or succession planning process.”

• Growing the pharmacy business: Health Mart continues to invest in solutions that help its franchisees attract new customers, maximize the value of their existing customers and increase their efficiency so they can grow their businesses. Among the major advancements and new offerings it has introduced in the last 12 months, Health Mart has completed the roll out of its comprehensive line of private-label over-the-counter healthcare products; launched a consumer-facing online platform, Your Pharmacy Online; revamped its Health Mart Marketing Tool Kit; and modernized its pharmacy store design. Health Mart currently numbers 3,000 stores across the country, and is quickly becoming the franchise model of choice for independent pharmacy owners looking to complement their local identity with a national brand, McKesson noted.

For more information on all of McKesson’s announcements from McKesson ideaShare 2012, please visit McKesson’s online newsroom at www.mckesson.com/newsroom.

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