Parkland Health Mart earns Pharmacy of the Year Award
Quantity and quality: Those are the two metrics by which any pharmacy operation is measured — quantity of prescriptions dispensed and quality of services provided. Quantity keeps you in business; quality keeps your patients coming back.
It’s a constant challenge for a small operator to score high on both metrics, but that’s exactly what McKesson’s 2013 Pharmacy of the Year Award recipient Parkland Health Mart Pharmacy, of Desloge, Mo., has done.
Parkland Health Mart Pharmacy, owned and operated by Lisa Umfleet, was recognized with the McKesson Pharmacy of the Year honor for excelling across a broad range of pharmacy services catering to a community of 5,000-plus residents. The best-in-class services include comprehensive medication therapy management, medication synchronization, 340B support (i.e., a government program that promotes access to affordable medicines), Medicare Part D counseling, diabetes counseling, immunizations, long-term care service and delivery service.
Umfleet recently remodeled and expanded her Parkland Health Mart store, with new features like an area for private consultations and immunizations. Additionally, the pharmacy has embraced McKesson technology and automation solutions to help build and diversify its patient base, as well as to improve accuracy and speed of service metrics.
Umfleet has been operating her independent pharmacy as a Health Mart since 2009. “What I originally was looking for with the Health Mart model was the brand identity. But I have gained so much more that I wasn’t expecting,” she said. “The services they offer, such as the claims reconciliation, the interface between the pharmacy computer system and the generics program — I don’t have to spend my time manually managing these tasks.”
For example, Umfleet noted that before joining Health Mart, she had to dedicate one full-time staff member to reconciling claims. “Now we just get an exceptions report. … There are a lot of time savers, which turn into dollar savings.”
Over the past six months alone, Parkland sales are up 30%, Umfleet told DSN. She credits much of that to the efficiencies driven by McKesson’s support services, which help lift the quantity of prescriptions dispensed so she can focus on quality and frequency of patient engagement.
“By utilizing McKesson’s services and products, our pharmacy staff is able to devote more time to providing excellent patient care,” Umfleet said. “For example, we started doing medication synchronization probably four years ago. But really what happens is, once you sync up these patients, it gives you more time to spend with your patient. It helps drive compliance and adherence while you’re doing synchronization, and it helps you with your workflow and efficiency.”
Another program Umfleet considers key to her pharmacy’s success has been McKesson’s suite of marketing solutions. “Before I was with Health Mart, I was having to spend a lot of my time writing ads or talking to people about advertising,” she said. “It just took me away from being able to focus on my business. So having the marketing toolkit and the templates right there, it’s just a huge time saver, and it gives us that professional image.”
Umfleet also utilizes McKesson’s Physician Outreach Program, which measures what percentage of prescriptions written by local doctors is being captured by the independent operation. “It was actually a surprise when we first signed up for it because we’re right next to a physicians’ office, and I would have thought that our capture rate on their prescription volume would be much higher than it actually was,” she said. That prompted Umfleet and her marketing coordinator to contact the physicians personally and let them know about their services.
With the help of McKesson, Umfleet plans to continue to expand on quantity, quality — and new stores, too. She recently partnered with local pharmacist Jeremy Leach to open a second Health Mart store in Fredericktown, Mo., this past winter, and a third location is planned for Ironton, Mo., this fall.
Tracing the growth of a pharmacy juggernaut
In 2006, Health Mart was a loosely cohesive buying and marketing group of 268 independently owned and operated drug stores, falling under McKesson Corp.’s store-support umbrella via its purchase of the old FoxMeyer wholesale business in the mid-1990s. Today, just seven years after its reinvention and relaunch by McKesson, Health Mart is the nation’s biggest independent pharmacy franchise and one of the fastest-growing drug store networks of any kind, with more than 3,100 member stores doing business in thousands of communities across the United States.
It was an idea whose time had come, said Kevin Kettler, SVP marketing for McKesson U.S. Pharmaceutical. Given the massive challenges confronting independents — daunting competition from chain pharmacy, mounting operating and marketing costs, and a shifting healthcare reimbursement system, to name a few — the conditions were ripe for a new kind of high-concept, comprehensive store-support model. One that blended the traditional strengths of independent pharmacy with the sophisticated marketing, merchandising, technology and the kind of clout with payers and pharmacy benefit managers that McKesson could provide through Health Mart.
The concept “clearly resonated” with independents and met “a need in the marketplace,” Kettler said. “When Health Mart relaunched, we had a goal of bringing the local identity and personalized service of an independent together with the recognition of a national brand for payers, patients and manufacturers,” he explained.
Health Mart’s success, Kettler added, derives from “the anchor that is independent pharmacy, and from supporting the core aspects of what our individual pharmacists and pharmacies do in terms of serving their patients.”
The economies of scale provided by corporate parent McKesson are clear in many segments of Health Mart’s business. For instance, Kettler said, “we didn’t have to go build a private-label team” when Health Mart introduced its own line of store-brand OTC products and vitamins in November 2011. McKesson’s store-support team already had developed a very successful private label, Sunmark, and was able to “leverage the capability” to launch the Health Mart brand, he told DSN.
Kettler oversees market strategy, product development and customer programs for all McKesson market segments, totaling more than $90 billion in annual sales, as well as development of store-support programs for both Health Mart and McKesson’s complete universe of independent pharmacy customers.
It’s a growing menu of capabilities, including programs specific to Health Mart — such as the revamped Local Marketing Support program and the consumer-facing online platform and mobile app, Your Pharmacy Online — and the broader suite of services available to all McKesson customers.
“We’re able to leverage the scale of our 6,000-plus independents in certain circumstances where appropriate, and we’re also able to use those capabilities to tailor solutions specifically for Health Mart,” Kettler explained. “So it’s the best of both worlds.”
It goes without saying that the franchisees under the Health Mart umbrella participate more fully in McKesson’s full menu of store-support services, and thus are eligible for the highest level of commitment and services the company has to offer. “There are some [support services] that naturally fall into the Health Mart-only bucket,” Kettler acknowledged.
Examples include the Health Mart private-label program and the newly revamped Local Marketing Support program, “where we’re able to leverage the brand of Health Mart and create the design, writing and advertisements that support our Health Mart franchise.” Also included in that bucket is a variety of recently revamped store design options that puts the focus even more sharply on pharmacy and health services.
Another major benefit available to Health Mart franchisees is priority access to a still-growing arsenal of technological solutions that extend their reach to patients and their peers via mobile, social and online tools. For instance, the Your Pharmacy Online offering provides a turnkey website, a mobile website and a smart-phone app for pharmacy owners, letting patients order refills, receive reminders, or check store information. While the web-site option is available to all independent customers, the smartphone app is currently only available to Health Mart customers.
What’s next for Health Mart? Kettler sees the transformations currently upending the U.S. health system as ultimately of huge potential benefit to pharmacy. Health Mart, he said, “is very well-positioned” for the shift to what he calls an “evidence-based” reimbursement system and “the payer evolution, whether it’s narrow or exclusive networks, or some other system,” he told DSN. “If you look at the relationship and trust our Health Mart pharmacists have established as care providers in the community, combined with the value they bring from a clinical support perspective, we’re very optimistic.”
Seven years into its transformation, Health Mart has grown into a major force in community pharmacy. And with the changes coming under health reform, and the strong leverage McKesson gives Health Mart members among patients, payers and physicians, the next seven years could be even more transformational.
Health Mart’s operations chief tracks build-up in local support
Like politics, retailing is local. That inescapable fact is behind the ongoing build-up of Health Mart’s local marketing and patient care initiatives as McKesson shifts more store support muscle to the more than 3,100 independent pharmacies allied with the Health Mart network through its Local Marketing Support Program.
“In the past, we’ve focused a little more on Health Mart as a national brand,” acknowledged Chuck Wilson, VP operations for Health Mart. But this year, he said, Health Mart has modified its national outreach based on its understanding “that our customers have a local presence, so the goal is to take our energies and put them toward supporting them on a local basis.”
To help its franchisees take advantage of Health Mart’s new local marketing offerings, the company modernized its content and provided new tools to let store owners “talk to the population more where they are.” For instance, he said, “we’ve added a lot of social media tools, so if they have patients they want to reach that way, we’ve given them content they can use to make that link with the customer.”
“It’s really important for our customers to get to their patients in the way that they’re used to receiving information, and if that happens to be via the digital medium, then we need to make sure we have the tools for our customers,” Wilson added. “Our pharmacists and owners don’t have the time to invest to figure out how to do it, so we can provide them with the tools to make it easier for them to contact their patients.”
In addition, he said, “we’ve made access to the local marketing support tools a lot easier, and we’ve simplified the process for taking advantage of advertising matching funds that help support some of their initiatives.”
The more links that store owners have with their patients, Wilson added, the more they can “help patients understand all the services available to them.”
In turn, the stronger emphasis on each franchisee’s presence as a locally based community health provider helps drive Health Mart’s national presence, as well. “Our customers are all locally owned, so their identity really exists within their community,” Wilson said. “This helps the brand grow nationally one store and one local market at a time. And, the easier we make it for them to get their messages out, the more we can grow nationally.”
Health Mart owner-franchisees are facing competition that is “bigger and better than ever” in a crowded marketplace, said the operations chief. So defining their presence in the marketplace demands a balanced marketing effort that deftly blends Health Mart’s advantages as a national pharmacy network with the emphasis on each store’s unique characteristics. “It’s important for us to enable our stores to compete in their marketplace, but do it in a way that’s going to match the services they offer, as well as the community in which they operate,” Wilson agreed. “It wouldn’t do a lot of good for us to go out there with some national message that wouldn’t necessarily pertain to the practice they run.”
At the McKesson ideaShare conference in June, Wilson talked about the company’s effort to sharpen the focus on Health Mart owners’ local marketing prowess — and to strengthen their ability to deliver on three key performance metrics:
- Improving patient adherence, including providing refill reminders and medication synchronization programs that simplify the refill process;
- Identifying gaps in care — specifically among diabetic patients; and
- Boosting generic dispensing rates to boost profitability and lower overall health costs.
“We’ve tried to focus on moving beyond transactional health care for a long time,” Wilson told franchisees. “We decided what we needed to focus on were three critical components of health reform.”
Recently, Health Mart also gave its store design its first major, comprehensive upgrade in seven or eight years. “We’ve been operating under the same store design since Health Mart relaunched in 2005 and 2006,” Wilson said. “There have been a lot of changes within retail pharmacy since then — not only on the consumer side and the demands they’re making on the retail setting, but also in the delivery of health care. So we wanted to step back and take a fresh look at this.”
In its bid to modernize the Health Mart prototype, McKesson followed a couple of basic principles — making the store easier to shop and making the pharmacist more accessible.
As the healthcare delivery model evolves, Health Mart continues to focus on supporting its customers’ ability to take advantage of the changes. Simplifying execution and making it easier to advertise the stores’ services is helping to position these pharmacies as an integral part of improving patient outcomes.