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Well-attended ThoughtSpot 2016 spotlights patient care, technology

BY Michael Johnsen

At its annual ThoughtSpot 2016 conference held in Las Vegas in late July, AmerisourceBergen outdid itself with the number of new tools designed to augment store operations, streamline pharmacy workflow and help better connect independent operators to several of their many healthcare stakeholders, including patients, payers and legislators.

Attendance was at an all-time high, as well. The General Session at ThoughtSpot 2016 was held in the larger MGM Grand Garden Arena this year, thanks to the more than 4,500 attendees.

Providing seamless health services to the benefit of patients underscored this year’s ThoughtSpot theme, “Time for Care,” noted Bob Mauch, president of AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation. “We know with certainty that your number one priority is taking care of patients,” Mauch told ThoughtSpot attendees at the General Session. “We know that in this rapidly changing healthcare environment, independent pharmacists are uniquely qualified to provide the kind of care that patients need now and into the future,” he said. “But while finding ‘Time for Care’ sounds easy, we know that it’s not.”

Steve Collis, Chairman, President and CEO of AmerisourceBergen, similarly underscored the important role that independent pharmacy plays in the delivery of and adherence to optimal health care and AmerisourceBergen’s commitment to ensuring independent pharmacies have access to the kinds of products and solutions they need to deliver such high-quality patient care.

In an exclusive interview with Drug Store News prior to the General Session, Collis expressed his enthusiasm for the independent pharmacy business. “AmerisourceBergen is an enduring partner [of independents],” Collis shared. “We regard this as a [core] mission, to help them be successful. I’m excited about the future. And I think AmerisourceBergen as a company, we’re very restless. We want to do new things. We want to keep innovating.”

For example, AmerisourceBergen launched a new website, OurIndependentVoice.com, that can serve as a gateway between community pharmacies and the regulatory or legislative issues that matter most to them.

AmerisourceBergen also lobbies on behalf of the industry, Collis noted. “AmerisourceBergen had an active participation in both parties’ conventions this past week,” he told attendees at the General Session. “Our active engagement with legislators and regulators generates proper understanding of the value we all contribute to health care. Without these conversations and the awareness that comes from them, we could lose the battle for a reasonable and fair share of the healthcare dollar.”

To help support AmerisourceBergen’s legislative outreach, Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Ga., visited ThoughtSpot 2016 on Friday, July 29. “As the only pharmacist serving in Congress and the owner of Carter’s Pharmacy, Congressman Carter is dedicated to helping build a healthcare system that provides more choices, lower costs and better services,” Collis said.

In addition, Good Neighbor Pharmacy’s latest executive advocate, the 25-year industry veteran who was named Good Neighbor Pharmacy president in April, Brian Nightengale was introduced to many of the Good Neighbor Pharmacy members for the first time. “If there is one message that you take away from our time together today, it is this: AmerisourceBergen and Good Neighbor Pharmacy are committed to being patient minded by investing in a best-in-class customer experience and solutions that are strategically relevant to your practice,” Nightengale said. He then outlined the full complement of solutions that AmerisourceBergen brings to market to boost the stature of independent pharmacy.

One of the more significant solutions coming out of the show was AmerisourceBergen’s new ABC Order engine. The new tool is significant not only for its improved operability — Good Neighbor Pharmacy members on site were extremely bullish regarding the potential for the new system — but also in revealing just how the global wholesaler approaches the support of its U.S. independent pharmacy community. ABC Order was custom-designed based on input from more than 200 Good Neighbor Pharmacy locations, who helped engineer ABC Order to fit within a pharmacy workflow with effortless ordering, smarter inventory control, quicker access to data and simple issues resolution.

Many other highlights came out of ThoughtSpot 2016, including the introduction of the new Innovation & Technology (I&T) Showcase. The new hall, immediately across from registration, featured a full complement of pharmacy technology companies and solution spotlight sessions that outlined many forward-leaning pharmacy opportunities, such as medication synchronization, medication therapy management services and other adherence tools.

In addition, the I&T Showcase demonstrated just how partners of AmerisourceBergen’s Pharmacy Services Administrative Organization — the Elevate Provider Network — implement those technology solutions to support reimbursement discussions with payers, as well as improve reimbursement.

The Showcase hall also featured several tech-savvy offerings that place Good Neighbor Pharmacy firmly at the forefront of retail pharmacy innovation, including virtual reality and Amazon Echo. AmerisourceBergen had on hand at the conference smart glasses that enabled participants to make a virtual visit to the three Good Neighbor Pharmacy Pharmacy of the Year finalists’ stores. In the future, AmerisourceBergen and Good Neighbor Pharmacy anticipate using those glasses to allow store owners to preview new store configurations and remodeling scenarios.

And the I&T Showcase featured a prototype Amazon Echo that today can connect patients to their nearest Good Neighbor Pharmacy and get store hours. But Good Neighbor Pharmacy in the near future expects to be one of the first pharmacy operations to enable prescription refills on the platform.

And if ABC Order, a new legislative focus and the new Innovation & Technology Showcases weren’t enough, ThoughtSpot 2016 also featured several opportunities to help build a specialty business across the independent space, introduced a redesigned generics buying experience and announced a partnership with the National Community Pharmacists Association that will augment front-end retail excellence.

And front-end will play an important role for independent pharmacy moving forward. According to NCPA, average gross profits of pharmacy operations have dropped from 24% to 22.9% since 2010. AmerisourceBergen has identified three front-end opportunities, including private label (a $115.3 billion market, up 2.5%), durable medical equipment (expected to hit $39 billion by 2017) and home diagnostic kits (more than $4 billion was spent on blood glucose monitoring kits in 2014, with test strips accounting for 90% of that total).

ThoughtSpot 2016 also provided attendees with more than 40 continuing education sessions, covering everything from government affairs to driving profitability and MTM.

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Getting a spot at the table by putting advocacy center stage

BY David Salazar

One thing independent community pharmacists know well is just how big an impact government regulations — from federal and state legislative level to regulatory agencies — have on their businesses. At Good Neighbor Pharmacy’s ThoughtSpot 2016, attendees were able to see the ways AmerisourceBergen advocates for their needs in Washington, D.C., and in state capitols across the country — and they were given a new tool to make advocating on their own behalf a more straightforward process, at a time when being involved is more critical than ever.

“If you don't stay active in the political process, there's definitely going to be a struggle for who gets to share in the healthcare dollars,” AmerisourceBergen President, Chairman and CEO Steve Collis told Drug Store News, noting the company has played a key role in being a voice for independent pharmacy in Washington, D.C., and in the states.

AmerisourceBergen’s advocacy on behalf of community pharmacy has been focused on several big issues at the federal level, while also keeping an eye on activity from the states. One of the main focuses has been provider status, which would designate pharmacists as providers under Medicare Part B, allowing them to be reimbursed for certain services. The bipartisan bill currently has 592 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives and 49 co-sponsors in the Senate, and is currently waiting for a cost assessment from the Congressional Budget Office.

AmerisourceBergen is tackling other issues around reimbursement, in particular direct and indirect remuneration fees. DIR fees, which were a key issue brought up at ThoughtSpot 2016 by attendees, are assessed by payers and pharmacy benefits managers, and sometimes aren’t completed until months after a sale is made, leaving pharmacists uncertain whether they lost or made money on a prescription. AmerisourceBergen’s Elevate Provider Network has signed a letter urging CMS to estimate these fees at point of sale.

“The critical issues like reimbursements, access to patients, provider status — making sure that there's the recognition pharmacies deserve and need to have to continue providing health care and access — are our fundamental pillars every day as we think about legislation at the federal and state level, and policies coming out of CMS,” AmerisourceBergen Vice President of Policy Stacie Heller told Drug Store News. Heller, alongside State Government Affairs Director Julie Eddy and Government Affairs Director Jason Money, gave a continuing education (CE) presentation during ThoughtSpot that outlined key issues facing pharmacy and how to advocate for the profession.

One of the pharmacists at Heller’s CE also happened to know first-hand the work it takes to create legislation with pharmacy in mind. Rep. Earl “Buddy” Carter — the only pharmacist in Congress — was on hand at the CE session to take attendee questions and urge pharmacists to be their own advocate by reaching out to their state and federal representatives, trying to meet with them and even asking legislators to visit a practice setting to gain better knowledge of the way their business works and the impact it can have.

“Like it or not, politics plays a big part in our profession and it has a big impact on our practice — and we have to be involved,” Carter told Drug Store News. “The old saying goes if you're not at the table, you're on the menu. We need to be at the table and make sure we're taking up [our cause] for ourselves. … It's important to [pharmacists], too, that they know they've got an advocate in Congress — and it's not just me. We've got a lot of good friends in Congress, and we need to make sure we're nurturing and growing those friendships.”

On the show floor, Carter was introduced to AmerisourceBergen’s new website for pharmacy advocacy, Our Independent Voice. Our Independent Voice offers users overviews of the biggest issues affecting pharmacy — both retail and long-term care pharmacy — including provider status and fair reimbursement. It also allows them to find their legislators by ZIP code and government level, while also providing a customizable letter template for reaching out to representatives.

“We're working to establish a conversation starter," Heller said. "We want to make sure that this is a tool that provides a communication or dialogue, … [and] that we're providing a comprehensive look at all the issues that resonate with both independent retail and long-term care pharmacy."

“[Our Independent Voice] is a place where all our customers can go and learn about issues,” Bob Mauch, president of AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation, told Drug Store News. “They can comment, give us feedback and find their legislators if they want to contact them.”

“It’s a big area of emphasis for us,” Mauch added. “If you are an independent pharmacist, or a pharmacy at all, you need to be active in Washington, D.C., and we are doing everything we can to facilitate that.”

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Nightengale focuses on delivering value to independent pharmacy in new role

BY Michael Johnsen

Brian Nightengale, the new President of Good Neighbor Pharmacy, emphasized AmerisourceBergen’s commitment to independent pharmacy and delivering value to its customers at his first ThoughtSpot tradeshow this year.

“I believe Good Neighbor Pharmacy has a big role to play in the success and growth of our community customers,” Nightengale shared with Drug Store News in an exclusive interview at ThoughtSpot 2016. “What I hope to accomplish with our team is that as we continue to grow and provide really important services through Good Neighbor Pharmacy, that we deliver a best-in-class customer experience for our pharmacies, and that the solutions and services are strategically relevant to their business strategy.”

Infusing relevance into everything that Good Neighbor Pharmacy provides its member pharmacies is an oft-repeated theme among AmerisourceBergen executives. “Working together as partners, we’re growing together,” Nightengale said. “[For example], there’s a lot going on out there in the reimbursement space, and we need to help our pharmacies be economically viable and competitive in the future.”

Last year AmerisourceBergen introduced the Elevate Provider Network, which bundles managed care services with pre- and post-edit, reconciliation and a patient engagement center to help track and manage Star ratings, MTM and patient adherence. “Since launching Elevate Provider Network last year, more than 2,300 of our members have taken full advantage of all of the features of our network, driving growth and improving outcomes in their pharmacies,” Nightengale told attendees at ThoughtSpot 2016. And member pharmacies are outperforming the overall market, including chains, to the tune of 3.4% year-over-year prescription growth vs. 1.9% growth industry-wide.

AmerisourceBergen provides a number of solutions to its independent owners, most notably its Good Neighbor Pharmacy Premier program, which provides expert business guidance on how to tactically manage a community pharmacy operation, from marketing and advertising to customer service and inventory management. “Through one-on-one coaching, Good Neighbor Pharmacy Premier is the most effective program we offer to our independent pharmacy customers,” Nightengale said. Premier pharmacies decreased on-hand inventory by 12% without compromising customer service and realized a 5% increase in sales-per-employee on average, Nightengale noted. “[These] are just two proof points of the impact that our premier-level services can have on your practice and profit margin.”

Good Neighbor Pharmacy has invested in several programs, Nightengale added, including a 17-store pilot program in the Dallas market that features an optimized front-end planogram that’s driving a 5% increase in unit sales vs. a control group. In addition, there is the POS At-A-Glance Report Card, the Temporary Price Reduction Program and Good Neighbor Pharmacy TV.

Good Neighbor Pharmacy is also supporting immunization efforts and extensions into specialty pharmacy.

Nightengale is rooted in independent pharmacy, he shared at the ThoughtSpot 2016 General Session. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma College of Pharmacy in 1990 following the influence of a family friend, who was a local independent pharmacist.

“I grew up in a very small farming community and [at first] wanted to be a veterinarian,” he said. But a day spent with Rick Hill, a pharmacist at Scheffe’s Pharmacy in Enid, Okla., changed all of that. “After shadowing him for a day, and a transformational dinner discussion, I changed my major the next week,” he said. “Over the next 10 years, I worked for three outstanding independent pharmacists who taught me the importance of putting patients first, being innovative and embracing an entrepreneurial spirt.”

In addition to Good Neighbor Pharmacy, Nightengale will oversee AmerisourceBergen’s PSAO, the Elevate Provider Network, which is comprised of more than 4,500 pharmacies.

Nightengale brings to both Good Neighbor Pharmacy and the Elevate Provider Network an expertise in pharmacy reimbursement. He was most recently president of Xcenda, where he guided the company in its mission to deliver the strategic consulting guidance, actionable market insights and tactical support services that manufacturers need to optimize product launches and ensure optimal patient access to those products. He provides expertise and insights related to market access strategies, health economics and comparative effectiveness research.

Nightengale also serves on the National Community Pharmacists Association’s Innovation Center Board of Directors, where he helps develop and execute education and empowerment tools to help community pharmacists realize the opportunities in an evolving healthcare market.

And while Nightengale is a welcome addition to the Good Neighbor Pharmacy team, AmerisourceBergen’s top brass shared a heartfelt farewell to outgoing president Dave Neu, who is retiring after a storied 34-year career. “His accomplishments are too many to mention in just a few moments. But what we can say is that Dave has been a tremendous business leader in the healthcare industry and advocate for you and your essential craft — a legacy that we will carry forward and build upon,” noted Steve Collis, AmerisourceBergen Chairman, President and CEO.

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