WAG chief: We want to own ‘well’
DEERFIELD, Ill. —The healthcare landscape is changing. There’s a new value-driven consumer who has emerged and, in light of this, retail pharmacy giant Walgreens is in the midst of an evolution into “a retail health and daily living store” and is on a mission to “own well.” That was a key message that an optimistic Greg Wasson, Walgreens president and CEO, had for Wall Street during the company’s Analyst Day conference on Nov. 4 in Chicago.
“As patients gain more access to healthcare information and they become more responsible for making their own healthcare decisions, patients are indeed becoming more shoppers of health care,” Wasson said. “And, frankly, that trend is good for us.”
The trend puts the company — which has more than 70,000 providers and serves 6 million patients each day — squarely at the intersection of the retail and healthcare industries. And if you ask Wasson, that’s a great place to be. “We are really evolving to ‘a retail health and daily living store.’ Our vision is to become ‘My Walgreens’ to everyone in America,” Wasson said. One may consider this a lofty goal, but Wasson was quick to remind analysts that two-thirds of all Americans live within 3 mi. of a Walgreens location.
In addition to the important work the company is doing to position itself as the “new healthcare provider,” leveraging its 8,000 points of care and the health professionals in them — including 26,000 certified immunizing pharmacists, a major focus for the company as it seeks to redefine the role of the community pharmacist in the national delivery of health care — Walgreens is equally focused on transforming its stores to be more than just another drug store on the corner. Hence, the emphasis on “daily living store.”
That transformation began with the rollout of the company’s Customer Centric Retailing, or CCR, store format and has continued with the expansion of its urban prototype and the new focus on fresh foods. “We have tremendous opportunity in the front-end of our stores,” Wasson said.
Wasson kicked off the all-day conference, which also included comments from several other senior executives who highlighted milestones and growth plans for Walgreens.
As millions of Americans gain coverage under healthcare reform and further stress an already overburdened healthcare system, Walgreens—which operates more than 7,600 retail stores, nearly 730 worksite and retail-based health clinics and more than 100 medical campus pharmacies—clearly is working to strengthen its foothold along the frontlines of health reform with a focus on prevention and management of chronic disease.
“We now have 30 million more Americans who are going to gain coverage, and that is certainly going to challenge the system; we have an aging population…1-in-3 Americans in the next 10 years will turn 65; we have a higher incidence of chronic and complex diseases as people age; and, to top that off, we have a shortage of primary care physicians, so there are threats and opportunities in health care,” Wasson said. “The threats are the fact that all of us in health care have to have a relentless focus on cost reduction, and I can assure you that we do. The opportunities, though, that arise are more focused on the prevention and management of chronic disease, and that’s where we are headed.”
What this means is that patients will see a continued expansion of scope of services to ensure that the company’s providers are viewed as a critical link in the screening and prevention of chronic conditions.
Wasson also provided an update on the company’s three core strategies: Leveraging its store network, enhancing the customer experience, and reducing costs and boosting productivity. Among the milestones mentioned:
Walgreens slowed the pace of new store openings from 9% growth in 2008 to 4.2% in 2010. Going forward, the company expected growth of between 2.5% and 3% in fiscal 2011;
Over the last two years, the company has acquired more drug stores than any other time in the company’s history. As a result, Walgreens now is No. 1 or No. 2 in 226 markets;
Since launching its CCR initiative in 2008, the company will have converted more than 2,000 stores to the format by the end of 2010 and plans to finish the rollout of 5,500 stores by the end of 2011; and
Walgreens is expanding its infusion pharmacy services as evidenced by the September acquisition of Omnicare’s home infusion business.
“We are going to skate to where that puck will be, and that’s more prevention and management of chronic disease,” Wasson said. “And we want to own the strategic category of ‘well.’”
NACDS, NCPA claim pharmacy victory after withdrawal of Medicaid program provisions
ALEXANDRIA, Va. The National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association heralded the withdrawal of two provisions from the Medicaid program that would have had retail pharmacies selling generic drugs at a loss.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services cut provisions that defined average manufacturer price and determined calculation of federal upper limits. The NACDS and NCPA sued CMS in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in November 2007 to obtain an injunction against the provisions, which the court granted. In response, CMS revised its definition of multiple source drugs in October 2008, though the pharmacy lobby groups amended their lawsuit to block that as well, saying it was still against the law. CMS’ new rule removes that provision as well.
In a joint statement, NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson and NCPA EVP and CEO Kathleen Jaeger heralded the decision, saying the rule would have reduced patients’ access to pharmacies by cutting reimbursements, thus forcing retail pharmacies to sell generic drugs at a loss.
“We insisted that this policy was not appropriate,” the statement read. “Separately, we also have urged that policy-makers should recognize the ability of pharmacies and pharmacists to help improve health and reduce healthcare costs. We are gratified that this sense is reflected in the pharmacy provisions of the new healthcare-reform law. The new law contains provisions ranging from dramatically reducing the [accelerated manufacturing of pharmaceutical] cuts to advancing medication therapy management, through which pharmacists can help patients take their medications correctly, which is referred to as ‘medication adherence.’”
Roadside announces partnership to further ‘drive’ wellness programs
BOSTON Two companies have formed a partnership to provide services for long-haul truck drivers.
Sleep HealthCenters and Roadside Medical Clinic + Lab announced a partnership Wednesday to provide sleep medicine services as part of Roadside’s driver-wellness programs.
Roadside provides medical services, such as Department of Transportation-compliant physicals, drug testing, driver-wellness programs and sleep services for professional drivers on the highway and at company terminals. Sleep HealthCenters will support Roadside’s programs by providing education, professional diagnosis and treatment support, which will be incorporated into the driver-wellness program.
“You cannot effectively screen, test and treat sleep apnea without addressing and improving drivers’ overall health condition, such as weight, [body-mass index], stress and cardiac strength,” Roadside COO Rob Scheschareg said. “By providing continuous care for drivers for sleep, fitness, health and [Department of Transportation] compliance from the terminal to the highways, Roadside Medical is able to move the needle toward better driver health.”