Inside This Issue - Opinion
Rexall grasps community pharmacy’s potential
March 18th, 2013
The changes transforming health care delivery, in both Canada and the United States, are creating openings for community pharmacy operators to expand the scope of professional practice. Retailers that are quick and nimble enough to seize the day will not only build their business but enhance patient access, improve outcomes and help limit total health care spending. Rexall Pharma Plus is a case in point.
As part of a broader initiative to rethink the role of the chain drug store, the Mississauga, Ontario-based company recently started an aggressive flu immunization campaign across Canada. The catalyst was the province of Ontario’s announcement in October 2012 granting authority to community pharmacists to administer flu shots.
Led by chief executive officer Frank Scorpiniti, an American whose previous experience in the United States at Duane Reade and Longs Drug Stores gave him a keen understanding of the significant contributions pharmacists can make in immunization programs, Rexall went on a crash course to equip and certify its professionals to administer flu shots.
As a result of those efforts, Rexall was the only chain in Canada to provide flu shots anytime with no appointment necessary. Scorpiniti says that in Ontario the retailer was responsible for 190,000 of the approximately 200,000 flu shots given by pharmacists.
“Flu shot administration is a great example of our reinvention strategy coming to life in the pharmacy,” he notes. “It was made possible through the support of our teams — from our pharmacists to our front line, to our operators and home office. This is the power of alignment at Rexall, and it doesn’t end here.
“For example, in Ontario pharmacists are prescribing smoking cessation products, in Saskatchewan pharmacists are prescribing for 13 minor ailments, and in Alberta pharmacists are renewing prescriptions after assessing medication appropriateness for patients.”
A study released by the Ontario Pharmacists Association earlier this month offers evidence to support the constructive role community pharmacies can play. The report, which was conducted for the association by the management consulting firm Accenture, concludes that the Ontario health care system could save at least $143 million over the next five years by giving pharmacists more authority and adequate funding in five areas — administering flu shots, counseling and prescribing for smoking cessation, adapting patients’ drug regimens, renewing prescriptions for stable chronic conditions, and prescribing for minor health problems.
“Ontario’s health care system is facing some unprecedented challenges, not the least of which is the rapidly escalating cost of providing primary care to patients,” says Dennis Darby, the Ontario Pharmacists Association’s CEO. “Our research shows that utilizing pharmacists to the full extent of their scope will not only reduce health care costs in the short term but also increase system capacity and access to primary health care services.”
Rexall’s experience with flu immunizations supports that assertion.
“Community pharmacy is a key to unlock better access to health care when patients need it,” notes Scorpiniti. “Providing quick and convenient service resulted in tremendous uptake by patients in accessing preventive health care.
“Because we can immunize more patients in a lower-cost environment where people can come in anytime that fits their schedule, we’re confident there will be less acute use of other, more expensive forms of health care such as visits to physicians’ officers and hospitalizations.”
While retail pharmacies in the United States have been ahead of their Canadian counterparts in administering flu shots, they lag in other areas, which, in addition to those cited earlier by Scorpiniti, include medication reviews. The problem, on both sides of the border, isn’t the capability of the professionals involved, it’s the understanding of the people who regulate them.
The task at hand for the profession is to construct a compelling case for pharmacy’s ability, still only partially tapped, to make health care more effective and affordable, and then capitalize on the opportunities that result.