HEALTH

Worksite clinics to fill demand of reform

BY Antoinette Alexander

NEW YORK —The spotlight is shining brighter and brighter on worksite clinics as employers work to rein in healthcare costs and boost employee health and productivity, and that spotlight is about to get even brighter as U.S. healthcare reform will likely be a “shot in the arm” for the segment.

“We envision that retail clinics, whether they are in employer sites or retail pharmacies, will actually benefit from health reform…. I fully expect these health ‘exchanges’ in 2014 to include, if not require, that retail clinics be part of the delivery network,” said Paul Keckley, executive director for the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions.

There’s no doubt that there’s a pent-up demand for healthcare services, and by all accounts it looks like that demand will only intensify when you consider the newly insured, as well as the insured who might no longer have to pay co-pays for preventive health. Then there’s the physician shortage debacle to throw into the mix. The bottom line is that there’s a growing need for convenient and cost-effective health care, and it is likely that more employers will turn to worksite clinics for the answer.

Take, for example, the onsite Health and Wellness Center located at Harrah’s Showboat casino in Atlantic City, N.J. The clinic, operated by Walgreens’ Take Care Health Systems employer services group, opened in 2005. During its first year of operation, the facility was seeing about 26 patients a day, Emily Gaines, VP compensation, benefits and HRSS for Harrah’s Entertainment, told Drug Store News. Now, the center is seeing an average of 65 patients a day and is up to about 17,000 visits a year.

“We are increasingly seeing, with healthcare reform, a new emphasis on all kinds of novel care delivery settings, including worksite clinics. People are understanding that you don’t have to sacrifice quality while embracing better convenience and affordability,” stated Tine Hansen-Turton, executive director of the Convenient Care Association.

According to the most recent data available by research and consulting firm Fuld & Co., issued February 2009, it is estimated that the number of onsite health clinics could grow by 15% to 20% a year from 2,200 to 7,000 by 2015. Given the current growth rate, on-site clinics could serve more than 10% of the under-65s by 2015.

Keckley noted that Deloitte has been following the maturation of the onsite clinic model, including CareHere. CareHere’s model basically reintroduces the company doctor, offering primary care services, as well as occupational health and lab work. CareHere currently operates about 90 clinics throughout the country.

Keckley anticipates that pharmacies will begin to align themselves with these types of worksite primary care clinics.

“I think [the group of newly insured] is bigger than 32 million. I think the newly insured, at the end of the reform bill, will be closer to 40 million because the law immediately said you have to cover kids under 26 who don’t currently have insurance and are eligible. And it puts a lot more emphasis on no co-pay and deductible for preventive health.… So I think there will be increased volume in retail settings beyond those 32 million newly insured,” Keckley said. “I think it’s a shot in the arm.”

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GNC to sell branded retail, food-service equipment

BY Allison Cerra

LOS ANGELES General Nutrition Centers has inked a deal to sell its retail and food-service equipment with the help of IMG Licensing and The Legacy Cos.

IMG’s licensing agreement for GNC with The Legacy Cos. will give way to the creation of GNC-branded products, such as blenders and juicers, which will be distributed in the company’s stores. The products will retail from $150 to $400, IMG said.

The agreement will run through 2015.

“GNC has set the standard as an industry leader in the nutritional supplement business and is truly dedicated to helping its customers improve health and quality of life. Teaming up with The Legacy Cos. to expand its brand and create this new and exciting product line will continue to solidify GNC’s brand and its commitment to providing exceptional products and services to consumers,” said Tim Rothwell, IMG EVP and co-managing director of worldwide licensing.

Added GNC EVP Tom Dowd, “GNC is very excited to partner with a high-quality manufacturer that can produce a variety of products that complement the healthy lifestyle of our customers.”

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Drug stores’ success relies on customer service

BY Jim Frederick

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT In the never-ending battle for customer loyalty, independents rule and service is still king.

(THE NEWS: J.D. Power and Associates’ pharmacy study addresses cost, customer service. For the full story, click here)

The latest national customer satisfaction survey from J.D. Power and Associates showed that personalized, above-and-beyond service still outweighs price for a majority of consumers — even in a dour economy beset by economic uncertainty and joblessness. A majority of the more than 12,300 pharmacy customers polled by the big research firm in May and June of this year gave their highest satisfaction scores to pharmacists that took more time to answer their questions, help them find over-the-counter medicines and, perhaps, even remembered their names and family situations.

This, despite the growing cost sensitivity among Americans about the prices of their medicines and the out-of-pocket expenses they incurred at the pharmacy counter. As Jim Dougherty, J.D. Power’s director of the healthcare practice, put it in a conference call to discuss the survey results, “Pharmacies that are focused on service garner the highest levels of satisfaction … even in an environment where cost has become increasingly important.”

That’s good news for small-scale, owner-operated independent pharmacies. It’s also good news for the Big Three drug wholesale giants that operate the major networks of independents, franchised and otherwise, that scored the top results.

Again this year, survey respondents ranked independents tops in overall satisfaction. Customers gave their highest scores to Good Neighbor Pharmacy, the huge network of some 3,700 independents that operate under the buying, merchandising and store-support umbrella provided by distribution and health services giant AmerisourceBergen. The two largest groups of independent-owned franchises, McKesson’s Health Mart and Cardinal Health’s Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy, ranked second and third, respectively, in the poll.

Among mass merchants, Target’s pharmacy operation got highest satisfcation marks for the fourth year in a row, while Publix rated tops among supermarket pharmacies.

Efforts to give the best possible service pay off, both in additional revenues and in measurable customer loyalty. Highly satisfied customers can bring in an additional $227 each year in prescription business, researchers found. What’s more, J.D. Power reported, “brick-and-mortar pharmacy customers who are highly satisfied … are more than three times more likely to say they ‘definitely will’ return to their pharmacy and 10 times more likely to say they ‘definitely will’ recommend their pharmacy to others, compared to customers with low satisfaction levels.”

That’s a lot of free word-of-mouth advertising.

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