PHARMACY

Q&A: Jon Giacomin, Cardinal Health

BY Rob Eder

With just about one week to go before the start of Cardinal Health Retail Business Conference 2015, DSN editor-in-chief Rob Eder caught up with Jon Giacomin, Cardinal Health CEO for the Pharmaceutical segment, to find out what’s new for the 25th anniversary of this important independent pharmacy meeting, his take on the current state of the pharmacy business and how it is impacting independent pharmacy owners — a major investment the company is making in its Medicine Shoppe and Medicap Pharmacy franchise system — opportunities in the Medicare Part D market and more.

Drug Store News: RBC draws a lot of repeat attendees. What’s new at RBC this year that may surprise attendees?

Jon Giacomin: This is our 25th anniversary, and it’s probably the largest show that we’ve had on record. We’re expecting record numbers of attendees this year, and I’m really excited about that. Relative to surprises, we’re going to emphasize the sharing of best practices among our customers. A number of them are doing some very unique things to respond to some of the needs within their own communities. We’re hosting a number of panel discussions to help facilitate peer-to-peer conversations, as well as highlight specific best practices that we think a number of our customers can learn from.

So, first and foremost, it’s going to be about sharing those best practices. Secondly, we’ve been focused on looking at the front-end of the store. In particular, how do customers get more out of their front-end? How do they optimize it? What products should they be carrying? How do they price those products? And really, how do they operate that part of their stores better? We’re going to be talking a lot about that, as well, as we think about how we improve the totality of their business.

DSN: Jon, when you talk to independent pharmacy owners, what are the biggest challenges they are facing, and what’s available at RBC to help address some of those concerns?

Giacomin: I think it’s been going on now for a number of years — and maybe it’s just getting to be more acute — but reimbursement is top of the list for every retail independent. The issue has shifted a bit over the last couple of years — so now it’s not only about reimbursement, but it’s also about access. So, we are focusing a lot in the managed care space. As you know, we administer a number of pharmacy service administration organizations (PSAOs), and we’ve been working to promote our network. We’ve invested in talent in that area, [along with] solutions around managed care to focus on understanding how our pharmacies are performing and giving them insight into their performance through dashboarding and then giving them the tools to really improve their performance.

As we look across the spectrum of challenges, [reimbursement and network access] are absolutely most critical to the retail independent community pharmacy. We’ve focused our time on creating new solutions and tools for our customers.

DSN: Jon, you talked before about “sharing best practices.” We know that a big draw for RBC has always been the opportunity for independent pharmacies to network and learn from their peers across the country. Talk about some of the opportunities pharmacy owners will have this year at RBC around peer-to-peer education?

Giacomin: First, we offer a complete set of continuing education courses, and we expect that pharmacists are going to attend a lot of those. Many see a great deal of value in those programs — not only for the peer education in terms of whoever is actually administering the course, but also the connections they make with their peers is an important element to RBC. We talked earlier about some of the customer panels that we have, and we’ve got great topics that we’re going to tee up, relative to best practices [around diversifying their businesses, developing new wellness programs and leveraging high-growth front-end categories to drive profits].

We will have networking opportunities throughout [RBC], and we have a number of other planned events where we are asking our customers to come together and share ideas and programs they are doing that might be applicable in other attendees’ stores.

DSN: This is a time of massive transformation in the pharmacy industry, and health care continues to change at a very rapid pace. Jon, from your vantage point, what are some of the most important changes you see occurring in the pharmaceutical industry happening right now?

Giacomin: Well, it really relates to our pharmacists and the customers that we serve, and what’s happening here is that [the business of pharmacy is] moving beyond just dispensing. Pharmacists are becoming more active in the delivery of care, and being asked to provide more clinical services — whether it’s Medication Therapy Management (MTM), whether it’s looking at generic dispensing rates, whether it’s patient adherence. … Pharmacists are being asked to do more relative to the delivery of care and really influence – positively – the quality and outcome of care. And  as a partner to our customers, we’re all about making sure they have the appropriate solutions to be successful in that type of environment.

So, things are changing very rapidly — certainly on the legislative front, you’re seeing more in the way of the expansion of MTM-type services. You’re also seeing legislation being introduced at the state level around prescribing and dispensing, and while it’s still somewhat limited today, you can see the possibility that they might expand [to include provider status for pharmacists]. Some states have already gone down that path — Washington state is an example of that. As momentum increases in these areas,  we want to make sure we’re there with our customers and supporting them.

DSN: More than 54 million Americans are enrolled in Medicare, with some 10,000 seniors aging into the program every day. What is Cardinal Health doing to help retail pharmacy independents capture share of this rapidly growing market?

Giacomin: What’s really happening right now in Medicare is an expansion of access. With the expansion of access, new cost-control models are emerging. And so the idea of narrow or limited networks has become more prevalent in the conversation. The question we keep asking ourselves is: How do we ensure that our pharmacies have access to those preferred and limited networks? And, as I was telling you earlier, one of the areas where we’ve invested heavily is in driving the performance of our networks, and promoting our networks. Today, we believe that we have the best-performing PSAO in the nation. We have more than four million lives that are in preferred Medicare networks, and we’re participating in 13 networks today. So, we feel really good about our progress, relative to gaining access and giving our customers insight into their performance. We will  continue to maintain and expand access for them because that’s obviously going to be critical for their ability to thrive going forward.

DSN: We’re hearing a lot about Medicine Shoppe and Medicap, and the co-branding initiative Cardinal Health launched last year. What can we expect to see at RBC this year on the Medicine Shoppe and Medicap pharmacy front?

Giacomin: As you said, we did launch last year, and since that time, we received a lot of interest from our customers. Most of them are looking at it as a way of attaching themselves to a bigger network and a bigger brand — a brand that is recognized well throughout the country and also is focused on patient care – but at the same time, having the opportunity to maintain their own identity, which we know is very important to them in their local communities. As much as patients identify with the Medicine Shoppe and Medicap brand, they equally identify with the pharmacy name. So, we think it’s the best of both worlds — having the ability to identify locally, and also being a part of something much bigger in the Medicine Shoppe and Medicap pharmacy family. We think the combination of the two creates value for our customers.

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Viva Las Vegas: Countdown to RBC 2015

BY Antoinette Alexander

LAS VEGAS — With just about one week to go, a record crowd of more than 8,000 independent pharmacists and pharmacy owners is expected to converge in Las Vegas at the Venetian hotel, July 22 to 25, for the 25th annual Cardinal Health Retail Business Conference, to network with their peers from across the country, celebrate the progress independent pharmacy has made over the last quarter-century, and learn about the newest programs and services available to help drive profitability in their businesses and improve the health of their patients.

“This year, we recognize the 25th anniversary of RBC, and celebrate the work independent pharmacists do day in and day out to improve patient health in their communities, as we share new ideas and solutions to help them continue to serve as their communities’ most trusted healthcare advisors,” said Steve Lawrence, SVP of Independent Sales for Cardinal Health.

In all, nearly 400 manufacturer, automation, software and pharmacy business solutions companies will set up in the massive exhibit hall, which opens for business on July 23 at 11:30 a.m. Cardinal Health will also highlight its array of solutions to help community pharmacies improve their businesses and position themselves to win.

And in between the action on the show floor, Cardinal Health will feature more than 140 hours of pharmacy continuing education, totaling more than 40 sessions over the course of the four-day event, covering topics ranging from opportunities for growth within medication adherence, to immunization updates, to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Star Ratings , with the goal of helping independent pharmacists and pharmacy owners improve their clinical services and business operations. You can register for the CEs by clicking here.

Among the featured highlights, special guest speakers include retired U.S. Army Gen. Colin Powell and NFL legend Jim Kelly, who will share their perspectives on leadership, and how each has had to learn to fight adversity, persevere and overcome obstacles to achieve their goals.

To help foster best-practice sharing among pharmacists, Cardinal Health RBC will feature a series of panel discussions aligned across the three core pillars of this year’s conference: retail, wellness and business. (For more, see, “Independent pharmacy owners share ideas for diversification, growth and advanced clinical care programs at Cardinal Health RBC.”)

On July 23 during the general session, Cardinal Health will announce the winners from its annual Independent Pharmacy Best Practices. Winners are selected for implementing exceptional programs in their business that help to demonstrate how independent pharmacies work to improve patient outcomes, drive business results and play expanded healthcare roles in the communities they serve. Winners will receive $3,500 each from Cardinal Health to donate to the pharmacy school or pharmacy association of their choice.

Many new front-end solutions will be available at the conference, including solutions in the Medicine Shoppe and Medicap Pharmacy co-branded showcase, and the Retail Academy, which offers attendees a chance to network and share best practices and fresh ideas with their peers.

Cardinal Health continues its support for female pharmacy ownership with its fourth annual Women in Pharmacy Boot Camp. Slated for July 25 from 8:45 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Women in Pharmacy aims to connect female pharmacists and pharmacy students with pharmacy owners, with the goal of providing the resources, support and inspiration needed to start, manage and grow their own independent pharmacy businesses. 

And the family focus continues at RBC 2015, with Camp Cardinal Health offering four full days of activities for children ages 3 years to 17 years. Scheduled activities include a visit to the Las Vegas Natural History Museum, arts and crafts projects, activities, games and more.

Drug Store News will be covering all the action at Cardinal Health RBC 2015 in a series of exclusive daily editions, in both print and digital formats. To keep up with all of the highlights, visit DrugStoreNews.com/Cardinal-Health-RBC or follow #RBCWin on Twitter.

And here are a few things to do before arriving at RBC:

  • Download the RBC mobile app by searching “RBC 2015” in the app store. The new and improved RBC mobile app allows users to easily navigate the tradeshow floor, preview speakers, see what's on the menu, complete speaker evaluations and build a personalized agenda.
  • Check out the silent auction benefiting Wounded Warrior Project, a nonpartisan organization that provides programs and services to help injured service members. The auction is open for online bidding on July 13 and closes at 3:30 p.m. on July 24. Some of the hot-ticket items this year include Callaway golf clubs and bag, a Tori Burch leather clutch, an Apple watch and exotic trips. Click here to start bidding.

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PillPack introduces latest pharmacy disruptor: Mobile medicine reminder

BY Michael Johnsen

BOSTON — PillPack on Thursday introduced its Medication Reminders mobile app for iPhone and Apple Watch. According to the full-service pharmacy operation, its the first health app of its kind to automatically import a customer's current medication list regardless of which pharmacy they currently use, and use geo-tracking sensors to create custom reminders based on location, activity or time to more naturally fit with people's daily routine.
 
"The best solution to adherence is simplicity, and the PillPack design tackles this challenge physically with our dispenser and individual pre-sorted packs," stated TJ Parker, CEO of PillPack. "Our goal with the app is to further simplify and re-imagine the medication management experience digitally so we can help folks with their medications, whether they're our customer or not, and regardless of the number of medications they take."
 
The PillPack app features:
 
  • Automatic Med List Import — Rather than type each prescription medication into a phone or upload photos of pill bottles, folks can easily import their medication using PillPack's proprietary methodology with just their name, address, date of birth, and the last four -digits of their Social Security number;
  • Context-Aware Reminders — Utilizing all of the sensors available on the iPhone, users can create custom reminders based on context-specific conditions (e.g. alert me when I arrive at work) that are more intuitive to daily habits than the basic functions of an alarm clock;
  • Smart Gestures — Inspired by the functionality and design of gestures used in e-mail management apps, users can archive medication reminders upon completion or reschedule their alerts if busy with a swipe of a finger; and
  • Apple Watch Functionality — PillPack offers a WatchKit extension to enable a less intrusive med reminder experience at a glance of the wrist.
"Many apps attempt to provide an all-encompassing healthcare solution but fail to truly improve people's daily lives," said Elliot Cohen, chief technology officer of PillPack. "The PillPack Medication Reminders app is designed to excel at one thing: helping people remember to take their medications by leveraging the capabilities of the iPhone and Apple Watch, and making reminders fit their lifestyle rather than the other way around."
 
The PillPack iOS app is available for free download in English and users can download the application from the Apple App Store.
 
PillPack is a full-service pharmacy designed to simplify the process of managing multiple medications through a combination of convenient packaging, technology, and personalized service. PillPack ships a personalized roll of pre-sorted medications, including prescriptions,  vitamins and OTCs,  in individual packs, and the company manages refills for customers by proactively coordinating with physicians and insurance providers.
 
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