Retail pharmacy's role with accountable care organizations (ACOs) is among the hot topics in health care, and Sav-Mor Franchising is performing due diligence to gauge its participation in that area of health care reform, president and chief executive officer Richard Grossman said.


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Sav-Mor eyes ACOs as health care role grows

April 27th, 2012

NOVI, Mich. – Retail pharmacy's role with accountable care organizations (ACOs) is among the hot topics in health care, and Sav-Mor Franchising is performing due diligence to gauge its participation in that area of health care reform, president and chief executive officer Richard Grossman said.

ACOs are groups of doctors, hospitals and other health care providers that voluntarily give coordinated, high-quality care to their patients. The goal of such coordinated care is to ensure that patients — especially the chronically ill — get the right care at the right time while avoiding unnecessary duplication of services and preventing medical errors.

Sav-Mor's potential relationship with ACOs is just one aspect of health care in what will be an active year for the 75-store pharmacy franchise and its pharmacists, according to Grossman. The chain has drug stores in Michigan and Ohio.

"We've begun an initiative to train more of our pharmacists in diabetes management, advancing their role well beyond dispensing and standard counseling," he said, adding that Sav-Mor is in talks with software vendors that may supply the pharmacies with the technology to measure pharmacist performance in that area.

Building its pharmacy practices and continuing its success in winning additional references will also be priorities for Sav-Mor in 2012.

"Sav-Mor will continue to focus on what we do best, and that is pharmacy," Grossman said. "Our goal is to continue to drive traffic into our stores by positioning our pharmacies as the place to go for health care needs.

"Community events like health fairs and screenings will continue. Our pharmacists are encouraged to develop practices similar to physician groups, enabling pharmacists to have personal relationships with their ­patients," he explained.

To that end, Sav-Mor is developing a more efficient pharmacy work-flow system so its pharmacists can come out from behind the counter more often to advise patients.

"The idea is to have our patients choose a 'personal pharmacist' when they come into the store for a prescription or other health care need," Grossman said. "After all, they wouldn't go to a different dentist every time they had an issue with their teeth."

Sav-Mor is also diversifying its marketing initiatives with Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, and the chain recently upgraded its website to make it easier to navigate, "enabling it to become a great resource center for drug information" for its customers, he said.

"We're also working with pharmacy benefits managers to resolve some of the real issues in health care — primarily the fact that we can't continue to dispense products at prices that are cost-prohibitive to our business," Grossman added.

"Reimbursement for claims continues to be driven downward. PBMs do not seem to care that a pharmacy chooses not to participate in their network because of these poor rates. And MAC [maximum allowable cost] prices on generic drugs are not being fairly maintained, which has also resulted in an adverse impact on margins. Pharmacies are filling far too many prescriptions at below cost," he said.

And Medicare Part D, which was supposed to be a source of increased volume, "is now seeing preferred networks set up between the PBM and one [pharmacy] retailer," Grossman noted.

For community pharmacy to tackle such challenges, it must secure a stronger voice in the political process, he said. "Pharmacy continues to be highly regulated by government entities and the PBMs. The cost we pay for meeting all these regulations — many of them having nothing to do with patient care — cannot be sustained.

"It is ironic that the highly profitable PBM industry is basically unregulated: It has proven to be more effective in Washington than community pharmacy, a trend that we must stop."

Grossman added that he had been gaining confidence in the economy, pointing to an increase in sales for the 2011 Christmas selling season and the fourth quarter in general. "But now I'm concerned about what effect rising gas prices will have on shopping baskets," he said.

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