Retail pharmacy has the capacity to be one of the drivers of the transformation of health care, says Kathleen Jaeger, senior vice president of pharmacy care and patient advocacy at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores.

Kathleen Jaeger, National Association of Chain Drug Stores, NACDS, NACDS Foundation, pharmacy care, patient advocacy, community pharmacy, health care, pharmacist, medication counseling, generic drugs, Generic Pharmaceutical Association, National Community Pharmacists Association, Geoff Walden

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Inside This Issue - News

NACDS' Jaeger makes the case for retail Rx

June 25th, 2012

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Retail pharmacy has the capacity to be one of the drivers of the transformation of health care, says Kathleen Jaeger, senior vice president of pharmacy care and patient advocacy at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores.

“Pharmacy can play a pivotal role by defining new roles and services that the health care system absolutely, unequivocally needs,” remarks Jaeger, who is also president of the NACDS Foundation. “Without a doubt, pharmacy is poised to be an integral player in the emerging health care environment.”

That potential attracted her to the industry and NACDS, which she joined in November to be the public face of community pharmacy and the high-quality, affordable patient care it provides.

“The stars are aligning,” says Jaeger, who is an attorney as well as a pharmacist. “Key health care players recognize that our nation’s health care system is unsustainable and are committed to devising innovative ways to provide patients with access to quality care. We are witnessing the implementation of coordinated care models. Success of these models depends upon the ability to improve patient care across all sites of care in the community. And, of course, that includes community pharmacy care.

“Community pharmacies are right there in everyone’s neighborhood, providing access to trusted health care professionals. So what better way to enhance patient outcomes than to engage in effective partnering with other health care professionals to provide continuity of care to patients in the comfort of their own community? It’s a great opportunity for ­everyone.”

To fully capitalize on the opportunity, NACDS is striving to educate stakeholders across the health care system while working with consumer groups. The association wants to ensure that as health plans, providers and hospitals start transforming their care models, they recognize the value of retail pharmacy and act accordingly.

Already, members are undertaking innovative care efforts and seeing promising results, says Jaeger. At the same time NACDS is working with and reaching out to patient advocates from Consumer Union to Families USA to ensure they understand the contributions of retail pharmacy in promoting medication adherence and helping people manage chronic diseases.

“The comprehensive outreach efforts will be challenging, but it’s very doable,” Jaeger notes. She says NACDS is in the first phase of an outreach effort to highlight the potential of community pharmacy care in a range of settings, from medical homes to hospitals. The pharmacy care initiatives complement the association’s government affairs efforts, she says, adding that validating the value of community pharmacy will garner the industry economic recognition from the private sector and then, ultimately from thought leaders.

Community pharmacy is especially well positioned to enhance care because of the prevalence of chronic disease sufferers, according to Jaeger. With 1% of the population accounting for some 30% of the cost of health care, better management of chronic conditions can dramatically improve the system.

“Medication is the first line of treatment for most of these chronic diseases,” she says. “Pharmacists are uniquely positioned because of their extensive education and skill set, not only to deliver medication but to provide meaningful medication counseling and related care and services.”

Employers should be especially mindful of the power of community pharmacy care, Jaeger adds, saying companies are recognizing how much chronic diseases hurt productivity.

“How do you create a system to ensure healthy, productive employees? How do you accomplish that goal, realizing that some employees may be transient? How do you create a new health care environment where community health initiatives have neighborhood pharmacy care as a core component? We’re far away from population health, but the system is moving in the right direction.”

Generally speaking, employers act a lot faster than the federal government, she emphasizes. “The private sector is very nimble, and employers are open to looking and evaluating different types of initiatives to determine whether the proposed action can improve employee health and wellness, and at the same time lift the company’s bottom line.

“From my limited interactions, I do believe that employers are open and engaged, and if employers understand the need to keep employees healthy and reduce hospitalizations and related health care expenditures, community pharmacy will play an important role. Employers are recognizing that value.”

Jaeger, who formerly led the Generic Pharmaceutical Association and the National Community Pharmacists Association, notes that she had confronted doubt about the potential of generic drugs.

“At that time, I said the health care system was moving in the right direction, consumers were moving in the right direction and employers were moving in the right direction, and I see no difference today,” she comments. “I see a lot of the same environmental opportunities. Community pharmacy members are already moving ahead, exploring different ways to make a meaningful difference.”

Among the aspects of her job that Jaeger most enjoys is raising awareness of pharmacy. She is intent on focusing NACDS’ message to audiences ranging from employers — who want to hear about employee health and wellness and their bottom lines — to consumers, who want to learn about their health and the health of their loved ones.

The ultimate goal, she adds, is continuity of care and improved patient outcomes.