Inside This Issue - Opinion
Retail Rx advances key parts of its agenda
September 12th, 2011
The talk surrounding Hurricane Irene’s impact on the National Association of Chain Drug Stores Pharmacy and Technology Conference obscures what’s important. The real news coming out of the event is that the profession appears to be on the cusp of achieving some long-sought-after goals that will raise its standing and make it a more integral part of the health care system.
A phrase that was used several times by speakers at the four-day event, which took place at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center late last month, was “tipping point.” Two of the more important areas where community pharmacy finds itself at that juncture are electronic prescribing and medication therapy management (MTM).
Determined not to be outflanked by other parties in the transmission of e-scripts (a fate that befell pharmacy decades ago with the advent of PBMs), NACDS and the National Community Pharmacists Association a decade ago founded Surescripts, whose mission is to, in the words of Harry Totonis, the organization’s president and chief executive officer, “connect pharmacy to the point of care.” Speaking at one of three business programs at the conference, Totonis reported that physician adoption of e-prescribing has reached critical mass and is accelerating rapidly.
He went on to talk about the positive return on investment and operational gains that electronic prescribing brings to community pharmacy. Based on an analysis of 40 million transactions, Surescripts found that for every 1,000 e-scripts a store processes, it realizes $1,278 in value. Taken together with enhanced patient outcomes, electronic prescribing is shaping up as a true success story for the industry — and all of health care.
Another front where pharmacy has made considerable headway is MTM. A panel discussion about the implementation of the concept made it clear that MTM is now entering the mainstream at chains large and small.
Michael Johnson, manager of MTM clinical programs at Walgreen Co., and Mark Gregory, vice president of pharmacy and government relations at Kerr Drug, said their companies are moving swiftly to make MTM available at all of their stores to patients who need it. The service, whose focal point is one-on-one counseling between a pharmacist and a customer, is designed to improve the patient’s well-being and help lower overall health care costs through the proper use of prescription and over-the-counter pharmaceutical products.
The panelists, who also included Brand Newland, a vice president at Outcomes Pharmaceutical Healthcare, noted that MTM is gaining traction among payers in the public and, to a lesser but increasing extent, private sectors. To cite one instance, Gregory noted that North Carolina’s governor and legislature decided to extend the state’s ChecKmeds program for another year despite putting an end to the mechanism that had originally funded it.
If the confidence that Kerr, Walgreens and other retailers have in the receptivity of patients and payers to MTM is borne out, the growth of the practice will go a long way toward shifting the basis of remuneration for community pharmacies from products sold to services rendered. In addition, it will positively alter the perception of the profession.
In her remarks at the conference, Debbie Garza, divisional vice president of government and community relations at Walgreens and chairman of the event, characterized pharmacy’s impact: “There is no greater value in health care delivery. When I talk of value, I am not talking just about all that community pharmacists do every day to help reduce drug spend. Though that is important, pharmacy’s value goes much deeper.
“It is about community pharmacy — and the expertise of pharmacists — as a true partner in a comprehensive approach to health care.”
The ongoing adoption and development of such services as electronic prescribing and MTM will go a long way toward reinforcing that vision.