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Wasson rallies NACDS attendees with ‘Push-Pull’ theory for advancement of pharmacy

BY Alaric DeArment

DENVER — The National Association of Chain Drug Stores’ 2012 Pharmacy & Technology Conference got under way Sunday at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver as NACDS board chairman and president and CEO of Walgreens Greg Wasson spoke about how far pharmacy has come during his career and the increasingly significant role it will play in health care in the future.

The show’s first business session began with opening remarks by conference chairman Vic Curtis, SVP pharmacy of Costco Wholesale, who spoke of the value and significance of the event. “Certainly, value is derived from exploring new business opportunities, attending quality educational programs and the interaction with business partners,” Curtis said. “but perhaps the event’s most meaningful aspect is its concentrated focus on the external business challenges that are shaping and defining our industry and the practice of pharmacy.”

Following an overview of his career and some of the activities at NACDS, Wasson gave a brief talk on next year’s Total Store Expo, the show that will combine NACDS’ Pharmacy & Technology, Marketplace and Supply Chain & Logistics conferences into one, set to take place in August 2013 in Las Vegas. He then launched into the “third bucket” of his speech, talking about the pharmacy profession’s dramatic evolution, from the days when pharmacists mixed medications themselves to today, when they can dispense millions of medications. Revisiting the push-pull concept he discussed in his speech at the NACDS Annual Conference in April, Wasson talked about how the threat of commoditization of pharmacy is helping to increase its importance, creating both a "push" and a "pull" that are together driving the practice of pharmacy forward.

“While statements that minimize the value of community pharmacy may aggravate us, the fact is, they’re really just pushing us to drive and accelerate the role community pharmacy plays in health care,” Wasson said. “The risk of commoditization of the pharmacy industry is pushing all of us to advance the role of community pharmacy.”

But, the demand for new and innovative solutions to the country’s healthcare crisis is also pulling the pharmacy retail industry to step up and take a more active role, he said. “People absolutely see the value of community pharmacy,” Wasson said. “The future is pulling us to it.”

Wasson highlighted many of the new, updated approaches to community pharmacy pursued by retailers, such as Walgreens’ own Well Experience stores, as well as Rite Aid’s Wellness stores, Bartell’s “next-generation” stores, Kerr Drug’s Community Healthcare Centers and CVS’ new prototypes. “So it’s up to all of us to step up, to look long-term and not short-term and advance this great profession,” Wasson said. “We have tremendous opportunity.”

In particular, he said, retail pharmacy can play a key role in addressing gaps in primary care. Wasson noted that nearly 70% of people in the United States don’t have or don’t use a primary-care physician, and emergency rooms are overflowing as a result. “With 30-40 million more people in this country gaining healthcare coverage, we are well-positioned to fill that void,” Wasson said, talking about the services already offered, such as immunizations, health screenings and medication therapy management. “If pharmacists and nurse practitioners are allowed to practice at the top of their profession, our community pharmacies can provide a high percentage of primary-care services in the U.S.,” he said.

After Wasson’s speech, and a short speech by NACDS Foundation president Kathleen Jaeger to introduce the inaugural members of the foundation’s first Faculty Scholars Program, former Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe delivered the event’s keynote speech, including anecdotes about his career as chairman, his views on a wide range of issues and his predictions on the 2012 presidential election.
 

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Walgreens’ A-Team transforming pharmacy retail on multiple fronts

BY Michael Johnsen

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — Man, you gotta love it when a plan comes together. In the past week, two stories broke that will help position Walgreens at the top of their A-game. One is the announcement of Walgreens’ entree into the loyalty card arena in just a few short weeks; the other is a huge technology news of Walgreens’ rollout of an electronic health record across the company’s entire platform. And all this not too long after announcing a blockbuster partnership with Alliance Boots and not too long before Walgreens rejoins the Express Scripts pharmacy network.

(THE NEWS: Study: Walgreens weeks away from entering the loyalty program market with Balance Rewards. For the full story, click here.)

It’s actually a little hard to discern which of these stories is the bigger deal. The card is about customer experience and engagement; the EHR is about expanding the role of community pharmacy.

And they’re both about improving health outcomes.

In addition to rewarding shopping behavior, Balance Rewards has a strong better-health component, such as its link to the company’s Walk with Walgreens program. And EHR will help Walgreens’ health practitioners better manage a patient’s condition.

These initiatives will enable two out of Walgreens’ five key strategic goals. How, you ask? Well, you’ll just have to tune into the next issue of DSN. DSN will examine every aspect of Walgreens in our exclusive, in-depth Sept. 24 report on the company and how it is transforming every aspect of its business — from the back end to the back bench; and from customers and patients to employers and payers. It’ll be a "can’t-miss" event.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments below.

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NACDS beats drums for TSE 2013

BY Alaric DeArment

DENVER — The National Association of Chain Drug Stores’ 2012 Pharmacy & Technology Conference, which kicked off on Saturday at the Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver and runs through Tuesday night, will be the last.

But there’s no need to break out the tissues because it’s not going way. Instead, the retail pharmacy trade group is rolling the Pharmacy, Marketplace and Supply Chain & Logistics conferences into a single show starting next year.

Dubbed the Total Store Expo, the show will take place between Aug. 10-13, 2013 at the Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas. The show will bring together an estimated 250 retail companies and 700 suppliers. “We took a look, and it became evident that this is a total store opportunity,” NACDS SVP member programs and services Jim Whitman said in a roundtable-style press conference with reporters Saturday afternoon. “The format is going to be a combination of the best of what we’ve seen from all the shows.”

The move to co-locate the three events under one roof is a reflection of the way more NACDS members — both chain and associate — are doing business these days. Frequently, merchandising, marketing and supply chain executives are meeting in concert to discuss not just buying product in retail, Whitman explained, but the much more difficult task of ensuring those goods actually make it to the store. In that sense, combining the three shows could enable vendors and retailers to speed up product introductions, and maximize sales opportunities.

One other benefit of the new show format, Whitman said, is that it would allow for greater interaction among buyers and vendors across categories. For example, people from the front-end could benefit from attending education sessions normally directed at pharmacists, or pharmacy buyers could learn about supply chain. “The pharmacy folks aren’t going to lose anything, and the marketplace people are going to gain something,” Whitman said. “We’re going to continue to strive to let people know they’re not losing anything.”

In recent years, the concept of health and wellness has started to percolate into and link every corner of the store, from the pharmacy and OTC sections to beauty and personal care products and consumables. “The profitability of health and wellness has spilled over into every category,” Whitman said.

So perhaps it’s only natural for suppliers and buyers from across a range of categories to gather under one roof. And that roof is going to be pretty big: Whitman said the show floor space would be about twice what it has been for the Pharmacy and Marketplace shows. In addition, according to NACDS, the TSE’s Meet the Market program will include 9,000 appointments with 270 buyers. This year’s Meet the Rx Market program included 1,501 appointments and 62 buyers, while the Meet the Market program at NACDS Marketplace in June included nearly 7,000 meetings and about 230 buyers.

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