Pharmacists at Rite Aid Corp. are making a bigger commitment to health care. Embracing a broader role, the drug chain’s pharmacy team is on a mission to not just provide vital medications but also help the people and the communities they serve improve their overall health and wellness. The result has been a resurgent pharmacy business.


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Rite Aidís Thompson tabbed top pharmacy exec

January 8th, 2013

CAMP HILL, Pa. – Pharmacists at Rite Aid Corp. are making a bigger commitment to health care. Embracing a broader role, the drug chain’s pharmacy team is on a mission to not just provide vital medications but also help the people and the communities they serve improve their overall health and wellness. The result has been a resurgent pharmacy business.

Robert Thompson

For his leadership in marshalling his team and executing a well-thought-out pharmacy plan, Rite Aid executive vice president of pharmacy Robert Thompson has been named Pharmacy Executive of the Year by Chain Drug Review.

“We have been highly focused on a multiyear strategy to improve the level of service delivery by our pharmacists and pharmacy teams. It began several years ago with an intense focus on improving customer service, not only in the pharmacy but in the front end as well,” says Thompson, who joined Rite Aid in July 2004 and has served in his current post since September 2009.

“The second piece was to position our pharmacists to deliver more clinically oriented services, because we believe that’s the way of the future for pharmacy practice.”

The logical starting point, he explains, was boosting Rite Aid’s ability to provide immunizations by getting more pharmacists certified to do so.

 

CHAIN DRUG REVIEW
2012 PHARMACY EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR


“Our initial focus was immunizations, which, to us, aren’t just about flu shots but motivating our pharmacy teams to see themselves as clinical service providers,” Thompson notes. “Once you go from the traditional dispensing role of the pharmacist to delivering flu shots, you have fundamentally changed the way you practice pharmacy. It also gets our patients to think, ‘Oh, my pharmacist can do all of these things.’ ”

Rite Aid now brings to the table 11,500 immunizing pharmacists nationwide and offers vaccines for up to 14 diseases, as allowed by each state. For flu shots alone, the chain administered nearly 1.5 million flu vaccinations in fiscal 2012, ended last March — more than double the 675,000 provided in fiscal 2011 — and the company aims to administer 2 million by the end of fiscal 2013.

“We think our pharmacists are really well positioned to be leaders in this space. And so far, I think we’re doing that,” Thompson says.

Rite Aid also is enabling its pharmacists to help tackle a pressing health issue: medication nonadherence.

“We know that medication compliance is a national health care problem and opportunity. We believe pharmacists are the best and most accessible professionals to address this issue,” Thompson says.

“We realize the pressures that our pharmacy team is under to meet customer needs and take care of prescriptions. But we also believe our pharmacists have a responsibility to drive adherence. So the next step in our clinical services push was to come up with a methodology and tool kit to help our pharmacists drive more effective interventions related to medication compliance, focused on people with multiple medications.”

That led to the Rite Care Prescription Advisor program, in which Rite Aid pharmacists can provide personalized reports that show how well patients are following their prescription drug regimens. The report gives a compliance score for each prescription.

“It’s really a tool to help the pharmacist have a very effective, focused conversation around the patient-specific adherence opportunity,” Thompson says. In Rite Aid’s fiscal 2013 second quarter Prescription Advisor produced about 800,000 pharmacist consultations. “We offer the score because it’s an easy way for the patients to understand how well they’re doing at taking their medication. But it also helps the pharmacist, because we score by drug, by therapeutic class and overall.”

Rite Aid, too, continues to find other innovative ways to extend its pharmacy offering, such as its wellness+ for diabetes program, Thompson notes.

An extension of the chain’s free wellness+ customer loyalty program, wellness+ for diabetes offers exclusive resources and savings to people living with diabetes — in particular, free wellness consultations with Rite Aid pharmacists specially trained as diabetes care specialists. Members get access to a toll-free number where they can be connected with a pharmacist who can discuss diabetes management. They also can go online to chat with a pharmacist 24/7.

“Patients are getting a comprehensive set of resources to help them lead healthier lives and manage their diabetes,” Thompson says. “It also aligns Rite Aid pharmacists with one of the areas of biggest concern relative to health care costs in our country.”

He points out that wellness+ has played a pivotal role in driving script count and reinforcing adherence because of its pharmacy orientation. Members earn the largest reward, 25 points, for prescriptions and immunizations, compared with one point for each dollar spent on nonprescription items.

“What I like about the design of wellness+ is that it involves the entire store, it’s pharmacy-centric, and it rewards good compliance behavior. So if you’re taking your maintenance medication once every three months, you’ll get a lot fewer points than if you take it every month as you’re supposed to,” Thompson explains. “If you think about our marketing and loyalty programs and our pharmacists and pharmacy team all engaged around wellness — and a key part of that is improving patient adherence — you can understand why I’m so excited about the power of this program.”

And the results are unmistakable. In its fiscal 2013 second quarter earnings call in September, Rite Aid reported that wellness+ members accounted for 68% of prescriptions filled, up from 67% in the second quarter of fiscal 2012.

“There’s alignment in all areas of the business on our pharmacy customers. It’s a multilevel approach to put our pharmacists and pharmacy teams at the center of what we do each and every day,” Thompson says.

“We wouldn’t have accomplished what we have accomplished without a great team effort,” he adds. “I’m very fortunate to work with what I believe is the best team of pharmacy executives and pharmacy leaders in the business today.”

*To read the full 11-page Retailer of the Year report on Walgreens and Alliance Boots, as well as the Pharmacy Executive of the Year and the Pharmacy Innovator of the Year, please see the Jan. 7, 2013, print issue of Chain Drug Review.

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