PHARMACY

NBGH supports employer use of convenient care clinics

BY Allison Cerra

WASHINGTON The National Business Group on Health formally supported employer use of convenient care clinics for selected medical problems, according to published reports.

“Patients, employers and health plans can clearly benefit from the targeted focus, ease of access, convenience and greater affordability of these facilities,” Helen Darling, president of NBGH, said Thursday.

Care clinics, which pride themselves on being economically convenient, are walk-in health centers most often located in supermarkets, pharmacies and large retail stores. By remaining open on evenings and weekends, and staffed by nurse practitioners, the hassle of going to the family doctor for minor illnesses is reduced.

Currently, more than 700 retail health clinics are in operation, said Tom Charland, chief executive officer of Merchant Medicine, a research and consulting firm in Roseville, Minn., that tracks the convenient care industry. Several employers have encouraged their employees to use retail health clinics in hopes of saving time and money, and more healthcare plans are covering such visits.

Although retail clinics have gained steam in the medical world, some skeptics have demanded they be reviewed.

In lieu of the concerns surrounding convenience care clinics, the NBGH physicians advisory group reviewed research reports and publications and concluded the clinics should be supported and employers should encourage their staff to use them.

The NBGH’s board of directors, including its five physician members, ultimately concluded, “retail clinics, in fact, meet an important unfulfilled need for services that are easily accessible, open to everyone, lower in cost than emergency rooms and available during hours that many physicians’ offices are closed,” Darling said in Thursday’s statement.

While the nonprofit Washington-based association said, as in regular physicians’ offices, standards are needed, the organization declared its support of employers enlisting the services of convenience care clinics. “We don’t see any reason to exclude retail medical clinics from employer-provided health benefits coverage as long as standards are in place and there is appropriate physician back-up and supervision,” Darling said.

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PHARMACY

Walgreens offers customers free help with Medicare plans

BY Drew Buono

DEERFIELD, Ill. Today marks the beginning of the open enrollment for Medicare Part D plans. It will last from now until Dec. 31 and will allow seniors to pick which plan will be best for him/her.

Walgreens is helping its customers out yet again this year, by offering free information about the plans. The information is given out by, pharmacists enter a list of a patient’s medications and the computer prints out information that gives a detailed list of plans and estimated annual costs including premiums and co-pays, coverage through the “doughnut hole”, savings with generics versus brand name drugs and 90-day supply allowances. This system also allows pharmacists to ask a few questions to determine whether someone may qualify for the Extra Help subsidy, where they pay lower co-payments.

“We understand this decision can be overwhelming, so we are working to make sure people don’t miss out on significant savings because they don’t know how to evaluate their options,” said Kermit Crawford, Walgreens senior vice president of pharmacy services. “We want seniors to know there’s a plan out there that will work for them, and we can help them find it.”

For more information on the personalized report and Medicare Part D counseling services available at Walgreens, contact your local store or go to Walgreens.com.

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NACDS reaches out to presidential hopefuls, elevating industry’s profile with new campaign

BY Jim Frederick

ALEXANDRIA, Va. The National Association of Chain Drug Stores is launching a new outreach and educational effort to Democratic and Republican presidential candidates in an effort to enlist their involvement in and support of community pharmacy.

The first salvo in that new campaign is an open letter to all the presidential hopefuls, published as a full-page ad in today’s edition of The Washington Post. The letter, on NACDS letterhead, is a kickoff to a broad effort to emphasize the value of retail pharmacy to patients and the health care system. It seeks a partnership between the organization and presidential aspirants in their search for solutions to the nation’s increasingly expensive and challenging health care puzzle.

In its open letter, NACDS points out that “there is a community pharmacy, on average, within 2.36 miles of any resident in the United States,” and that “pharmacists are exceptionally accessible and convenient health care providers.

NACDS urges the candidates to “come to a point when government action reflects the health-boosting and money-saving value of medication management, and stops devaluing the services of those who are best equipped to provide it.

“Given the primacy of the issue of health care, campaigning for nomination and election requires a campaign for quality, affordability and accessibility of care,” the group adds. “Let’s work together to unleash the power of community pharmacy in a pro-patient platform.”

NACDS president and chief executive officer Steve Anderson announced the outreach effort today at a health care forum at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “We reached out to the presidential candidates today because health care is clearly the major domestic policy issue on the national stage,” he told Chamber members. “With state and federal governments making nearly half of all healthcare payments in the U.S., we want to be part of the health care vision of the future for public payers. But our scope is much larger than that: we want to engage public and private payers and all strategic healthcare stakeholders.”

In addition, said NACDS’ chief executive, “We also reached out to the presidential candidates because we believe that government needs to think anew about the health-boosting and money-saving value of the role of the community pharmacist in medication management. At the same time, government needs to stop devaluing their services.”

In line with the kickoff of the new outreach campaign, Anderson also unveiled a new report from Comstock Consulting Group, LLC, which outlines the value of pharmacist-delivered patient-care services to health plan payers and other stakeholders. The report, based on a survey of health plan payers, was conducted for NACDS’ Value of Pharmacy Committee with support from drug maker Sanofi-Aventis.

“The objective,” he said, “was to identify insights on how we can develop pharmacist-delivered services that are recognized and valued, and ultimately improve the quality of patient care.”

The report cites the need for collaboration between pharmacists, physicians and other health care stakeholders to improve patients’ prevention and treatment of chronic diseases, and notes that “community pharmacy needs to define its future role as a service provider as well as a product provider.”

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