Chain drug retailing executives spotlighted the expanding role of community pharmacy and emerging models of health care in kicking off the National Association of Chain Drug Stores Pharmacy & Technology Conference this weekend.

National Association of Chain Drug Stores Pharmacy & Technology Conference, NACDS Pharmacy & Technology Conference, Greg Wasson, Walgreens, Victor Curtis, Costco, community pharmacy, chain drug retailing, chain drug stores, health care, Steve Anderson, Pharmacy Connect, NACDS Total Store Expo

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Pharmacy & Tech Conference looks to the future

August 27th, 2012

DENVER – Chain drug retailing executives spotlighted the expanding role of community pharmacy and emerging models of health care in kicking off the National Association of Chain Drug Stores Pharmacy & Technology Conference this weekend.

NACDS chairman Greg Wasson, president and chief executive officer of Walgreen Co., on Sunday noted that pharmacy is garnering more attention from public officials, as evidenced by the rising number of pharmacy tours they're making in assessing new directions for health care.

"They do not come to see a pharmacy of today, they come to see where community pharmacy is headed. They leave very enthusiastic about the role community pharmacy can play in helping solve our country’s healthcare crisis," Wasson said at the NACDS Pharmacy & Technology Conference, which runs through Tuesday.

Wasson urged pharmacies to provide tours to decision-makers through the NACDS RxIMPACT grassroots advocacy program. He also pointed to the growing pool of  pharmacy services that are advancing the industry's role in health care delivery, such as health and wellness solutions, vaccinations, health screenings and medication therapy management (MTM).

"There's enormous opportunity out there to evolve community pharmacy as an industry, to change the face of health care in this country and to advance the pharmacy profession," Wasson told attendees. "Our product used to be dispensing pills safely and efficiently, but today our product is that and much more. Our product is an outcome — an improved health outcome — that only a face-to-face encounter with a community pharmacist can accomplish."

The Pharmacy & Technology Conference brings together decision makers from 130 retail companies — including chain drug stores, supermarkets and mass merchants who combined represent over 80,000 retail outlets — as well as suppliers of prescription drugs, over-the-counter products and home health care.

On Saturday at the conference, a forum on community pharmacy's role in patient-centered care models featured influential thought leaders in changing health care dynamics, including William Shrank, director of evaluation for the Innovation Center at the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

Sunday at the conference saw the debut of Pharmacist Connect, an interactive, one-to-one experience offering counseling and other pharmacy services on the exhibit floor. Denver-area pharmacists from NACDS chain members are available to provide conference exhibitors with pharmacy services, such as medication counseling, health screenings, flu vaccinations and first aid treatment.

"There is no greater venue than the NACDS Pharmacy & Technology Conference to showcase the important role that pharmacists provide to patients every day to help improve health outcomes and reduce healthcare costs," NACDS president and CEO Steven Anderson stated. NACDS added that the program is open to the media to help raise awareness among their audiences of new ways that pharmacies help patients improve their quality of life while preventing life-threatening conditions and high-cost treatments down the road.

Participants in Pharmacist Connect include Denver-area pharmacists from Costco, Kmart, Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy, Rite Aid, Safeway, Sam's Club, Walgreens and Walmart.

And on Monday, Mark McClellan, director of the Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform at the Brookings Institution and formerly commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration and administrator of CMS, is slated to deliver a keynote address during the business program.

In his remarks, Wasson noted that the nation "wants our industry to step up and go where we all are striving to go." He said community pharmacy is being pushed forward by those who would "commoditize not only our industry, but our profession, too ... reducing the value of the patient-pharmacist relationship to the tactical part of the job — dispensing the pill."

To counter that, he described initial results of opinion research conducted by NACDS in August. "Let me share some statements from the survey that resonated most with the respondents," he said. "Pharmacies are highly accessible; pharmacies are working to help improve the overall health of patients; pharmacies are providing new innovative services; pharmacists are trusted health care professionals. The value of the pharmacist-patient relationship is leading to a higher quality of life."

Commenting on pharmacy's focus on helping to meet the needs of tomorrow, Wasson said, "No one ever said this would be easy. Folks, our industry has its share of headwinds, but it's also got some mighty tailwinds, too. Our future has never been brighter, and our opportunity has never been greater, to advance this great profession and the role we all know community pharmacy can play."

Wasson also looked forward to the August 2013 debut of the NACDS Total Store Expo. "You know I'll certainly be there with my folks at Walgreens, from pharmacy to supply chain to health and wellness. I hope your company will be represented, too," he said.

Victor Curtis, senior vice president of pharmacy for Costco Pharmacies, and chairman of this year's Pharmacy & Technology Conference, also highlighted the Total Store Expo earlier on Sunday in kicking off the pharmacy and technology event.

Curtis noted that the new show will combine the best educational and business programming components from the Supply Chain & Logistics Conference, the Marketplace Conference and the Pharmacy & Technology Conference, as well as bring some new ones.

"I am convinced that by bringing together these three meetings, NACDS will create a meeting that adds up to much more than the sum of three parts," Curtis told attendees. "By allowing strategic, cross-functional department meetings to occur, with the right business partners, each similarly aligned, there is the potential to produce exponentially greater results."