Our surprising readership
Sometimes even I am surprised by who is reading us. Last month, nearly 120,000 unique visitors came to DrugStoreNews.com. One of them was president of the American Academy of Family Physicians Glen Stream.
“In her May 23 article, ‘Physician-authored JAMA article highlights importance of retail clinics, drug store medicine,’ Antoinette Alexander highlights a recently published article that shares a vision for retail health clinics that completely outstrips the capability of these clinics as they are currently configured,” Dr. Stream wrote in his May 31 letter to the editor. To read the entire letter, visit click here.
It does seem odd, though, that the president of a big, national physician’s organization is writing the editor of DSN to debate an article that actually appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association. But why split hairs? Let’s just chalk it up to DSN’s extensive reach.
Christine Cassel of the American Board of Internal Medicine, the actual author of the JAMA article, half-predicted Stream’s response — and others like him — in her conclusion:
“The question is whether this phenomenon will grow and flourish in the ways described here or whether 20th century attitudes about physician and hospital dominance in health care will prevent market-based solutions to the healthcare access and cost crisis. This model is a challenge to medical and hospital leadership, as well as to leaders in the retail health clinic industry, as they pursue the potential opportunities and benefits for the American people.”
I may not be smart enough to be the president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. But I’m smart enough to know how to read, and Dr. Cassel, at no point in her article, suggested that retail clinics could or should replace the role of the physician. “The retail clinic potentially could be an important component of coordination of care aimed at reducing disease exacerbations, unnecessary hospitalizations and adverse drug interactions. If this vision were realized, the retail clinic phenomenon could be transformative for a vast number of patients in the United States,” she said.
But all Dr. Stream can see or hear is someone coming to take his job away from him.
I enjoyed reading your column (“Occupy Health Care,” May 21, 2012). … It did make me wonder how ordinary bench pharmacists could be empowered to help Medicare patients [know] about the [free annual wellness visit] physical benefit. It would be a great way to get more people treated, and it would be great for pharmacy.
— Bruce Kneeland, Royersford, Pa. , national account manager pharmacy at Epicor Software
Waiting rooms as educational tools
Digital health programming aired through a doctor’s office waiting room is becoming more prevalent, with more providers expanding their networks. It’s an opportunity for retail pharmacies to reach that captive audience satirized by comedian Jerry Seinfield: “There’s no chance of not waiting [in the waiting room.] That’s the name of the room,” he said as part of a rant on doctors. “They finally call you and it’s exciting … but you’re just going to the little waiting room.”
One company making a major push in this space is AccentHealth, a point-of-care media company featuring health education television content, which recently expanded its feature programming produced by CNN’s Medical Unit. One point of difference for AccentHealth: It is able to supplement its programming with local advertising. One obvious target for those ads is local pharmacies near the physician offices that are part of AccentHealth’s network.
“Because we’re a digital network, we can actually geo-locate our offices to our pharmacy partner’s stores and offer just these doctors’ offices, for example, that are within a 5-mile radius of that store,” noted Edith Hodkinson, president of AccentHealth’s media division. The messages can be tailored to identify the nearest pharmacies and include a short code patients can use to download directions.
AccentHealth collectively reaches more than 173 million viewers annually across more than 12,300 physician waiting rooms nationwide, including 9,800 general practitioner offices. The balance of the networks is split between OB-GYN waiting rooms (1,000) and pediatric waiting rooms (1,500).
In April, the network expanded its condition-specific networks to include arthritis pain, COPD, smoking cessation, gout, low testosterone, multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis and overactive bladder. The new networks are in addition to AccentHealth’s nine other condition-specific networks: allergy, mental health, asthma, diabetes, GERD, rheumatology, heart health, men’s health and senior women’s health.
On average, patients are in the doctor’s waiting room for some 27 minutes, Hodkinson noted. That’s almost one-third of the average time a person spends seeking medical care on a day that they need it.
AccentHealth research found that 90% of patients visiting a doctor’s office go shopping after their visit, and 64% of these viewers will purchase a prescription medication.
Start your engines
It may be more than just coincidence that Walgreens has decided to really blow the doors off of retail pharmacy in the same city that screams horsepower every year over Memorial Day weekend. Because even as those Indy 500 drivers are chugging their milk at the Brickyard, Walgreens’ pharmacists will be celebrating a victory of their own as they and their customers help redefine what “drug store” means in shopper parlance.
Walgreens is building a market-driven, consumer-focused retail health destination center that is focused on driving improved healthcare value for customers. “We are going to move away from the old practice of pharmacy, which was primarily transactional, to more of a personal relationship,” noted Marcel Naddaf, Walgreens market pharmacy director for the Indianapolis and St. Louis markets, during a Drug Store News tour of the Indianapolis market stores in June. “This is a completely new pharmacy, health and wellness experience with a focus on health outcomes,” he said.
One of the key differentiators across all of Walgreens’ Well Experience stores is a consultation pharmacist positioned in a professional and private setting at the pharmacy. Beyond fielding patient inquiries, the pharmacist is able to engage with patients when they need it, how they need it and when it’s most appropriate. “We are seeing great success with this initiative,” Naddaf said. “While the goal is to improve medication adherence for our patients, the positive feedback from our patients has been unbelievable.” It goes well beyond patient feedback, however, and helps to advance the role of the pharmacist by being a trusted and accessible resource for questions about medication and care. How many times does a doctor follow through with a call regarding a new therapy? If the answer is “not many,” Naddaf proposed, then a Walgreens pharmacist has just distinguished themselves within that patient’s healthcare paradigm.
In addition to private consultation rooms located adjacent to the pharmacy, the Indianapolis market stores, as well as many of the other Walgreens Well Experience stores, also feature a larger community room — there are 12 strategically positioned throughout Indianapolis — that can host community-driven health-related information gatherings. It’s not only an opportunity for Walgreens’ pharmacy to interact with the local community, but also a venue for local primary care physicians and specialists to work with Walgreens on specific healthcare topics.
And Walgreens’ pharmacists in the Indianapolis market are empowered to go “above and beyond,” replicating the company’s latest ad slogan, in developing their own relevant services within that community room.
For example, Indianapolis market pharmacy manager Amy Lenell at her store created “Weight Check Wednesdays” — an initiative to educate and support moms with new additions on breast-feeding and infant care. The initiative is done in conjunction with the Indiana Perinatal Network, and while still in pilot phase, that could become a scalable service designed to help capture a family’s healthcare decision-maker early in her tenure.
Walgreens is even marking a new position within the retail environment — the Walgreens Health Guide that serves as a liaison between the patient, the on-site Take Care Clinic and the pharmacy. Armed with tablets dialed into the Walgreens home page, health guides have at least two years of experience in healthcare training, Naddaf said. And while there is a kiosk of sorts in front of the pharmacy, that guide is more often in the aisles helping patients than waiting for patients to come to them.
Taking in the total store — a stronger position in fresh foods, knowledgeable beauty adviser, Take Care Clinics and the pharmacy — Walgreens hopes to generate new dedicated trips for a time-crunched consumer in search of “well,” no matter how that patient defines “well” in his or her own life.
For more photos, click here.