Inside This Issue - News
Tough tests await regional chains
February 3rd, 2014
NAPLES, Fla. – From the challenges posed in competing against their much larger counterparts (including those in the discount and supermarket trade channels) to trying to help pharmacy teams and their customers gain a better understanding of the Affordable Care Act and the related complexities of the nation’s evolving health care system to addressing the demands of a customer who is looking for a bargain without sacrificing quality, regional drug chains have their work cut out for them.
Those issues, and others, will be discussed and debated at the NACDS Regional Chain Conference February 2 through February 14 at the Ritz-Carlton, here.
Although some regional retailers find market forces and other issues too difficult to overcome, others survive — sometimes by stressing the edge they have over their competitors in the field of customer service, sometimes because their small structure enables them to adopt front-end and pharmacy technologies at a quicker pace than that of the large chains.
Still, the obstacles cannot be overlooked. One of the major issues facing regional chains is their ability — or lack thereof — to participate in the pharmacy networks that are part of the ACA’s exchange plans.
Under the ACA, millions of Americans will gain new insurance coverage, presenting pharmacists with increased opportunities not only to dispense needed medications to those patients but also to provide them with one-on-one counseling, medication therapy management and other health care services.
But before such initiatives can be offered, regional and small chains must find a way to overcome health care plan limitations on the number of pharmacies that can participate in a network as well as restricted drug formularies.
“Network accessibility is one of the major challenges that the industry will face in 2014,’’ remarks Bob Narveson, president and chief executive officer of Thrifty White Pharmacy.
Narveson, who is also NACDS chairman, will present a state of the Industry update at the regional conference as well as a report on key initiatives.
Lewis Drugs president and CEO Mark Griffin is among regional chain leaders who agree on the severe consequences that the restricted networks will have on smaller operations.
“To compensate for the customers lost to these networks, we must continue to develop new relationships with our patients and work to create independent networks,’’ notes Griffin, adding that by taking these and other steps regional retailers will also be able to reinforce their own brand.
Despite the challenges presented by health care reforms, regional chains are not backing down from finding new opportunities that help illustrate the value that neighborhood pharmacies can deliver to the health care system.
At Sav-Mor, a number of specific wellness initiatives have been developed and implemented over the past two years targeting such conditions as high blood pressure and diabetes.
“We also have systems in place that trigger a pharmacy intervention for issues like missed prescription refills and proper antibiotic use,’’ comments executive vice president Yvonne Gallagher.
While distinguishing themselves from the national counterparts, regional chains at times have taken pages from the playbooks of those bigger retailers.
Narveson notes that today’s regional players have specialty pharmacies, central fills, patient care centers, long-term care pharmacies, generic warehouses and medication synchronization programs.
“Regional players have come a long say and continue to demonstrate their value in providing patient care,’’ he says.