The nation's changing health care environment is creating a new dynamic of need and demand that calls on community pharmacy to play a bigger role, Walgreen Co. president and chief executive officer Greg Wasson and other industry executives said at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores Regional Chain Conference.


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Wasson highlights 'push-pull' of community pharmacy

February 4th, 2013

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The nation's changing health care environment is creating a new dynamic of need and demand that calls on community pharmacy to play a bigger role, Walgreen Co. president and chief executive officer Greg Wasson and other industry executives said at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores Regional Chain Conference.

Outlining recent findings of NACDS opinion research, the current public policy environment, and health care trends, Wasson told conference attendees Monday that tailwinds and headwinds are fostering the need for community pharmacy to "unite behind NACDS and push like never before."

The area of immunizations, for example, shows that consumers are ready for community pharmacy to take on a greater role as a health care provider, according to Wasson, who is NACDS chairman. "Five years ago, we weren't even in that space. Today, pharmacists are the leading provider of immunizations and vaccinations," he said. "How many more services can we help provide?"

Wasson described the "push-pull of community pharmacy," where new health services from chain drug retailers will figure prominently. "Consumer demand is pushing us to drive and accelerate the role community pharmacy plays in health care," he explained. "And our nation's need for new, innovative solutions to help solve our health care crisis is what's pulling our industry to step up."

He also challenged NACDS to apply its strength of diversity of membership — ranging from traditional drug stores to supermarkets with pharmacies and from regional chains to large chains — in efforts to achieve a regulatory change that would recognize pharmacists as providers under Medicare Part D.

"NACDS is only as effective as our direct involvement," Wasson said. He urged attendees to engage in NACDS RxImpact Day on Capitol Hill, scheduled for March 13 and 14 in Washington, D.C.

Also on Monday at the Regional Chain Conference, which began Sunday and runs to Tuesday, NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson spotlighted opportunities for pharmacy patient care as well as challenges facing the nation.

"When the NACDS executive committee, board of directors and staff worked together on the 2013 strategic plan, we agreed that our industry seems to stand at an inflection point — with many more inflection points on the horizon," Anderson told attendees at the conference, designed for senior retail executives operating up to 250 stores. "Many of you tell me that decision makers seem to recognize pharmacy's value as the face of neighborhood health care more than before. Many of you tell me that community pharmacy and the consumer goods side of the business have tremendous opportunities, but the trick will be capitalizing on them. I also hear about the challenges that could stifle not only innovation, but also the viability of some businesses."

Anderson announced a theme of "Experience It!" that reflects NACDS' proactive response to today's operating environment as the association celebrates its 80th anniversary. He also gave three pledges to members to demonstrate the value and return on their investment in NACDS.

"The first pledge: No other trade association will prove more proactive in serving as an advocate and resource for its membership in the implementation of health care reform," Anderson stated. He discussed NACDS' commitment to ensuring that community pharmacy is engaged on pharmacy-specific provisions related to Medicaid pharmacy reimbursement, the average manufacturer price model, and decisions at the state level that will impact Medicaid expansion and health insurance exchanges.

He said the second pledge is that "NACDS will embark on a determined journey to earn the recognition for pharmacies as health care providers in Medicare." To that end, NACDS will "take a good hard look" at the obstacles preventing pharmacies from direct-billing in Medicare Part B and other issues, as well as "take a reasoned approach to positioning pharmacies even more strategically for the advancement of patient care," he explained.

And for the third pledge, Anderson said the upcoming NACDS Total Store Expo, to be held Aug. 10 to 13 in Las Vegas, will "live up to its billing as the best possible place for NACDS members to conduct business." The expo combines three key NACDS events — the Supply Chain & Logistics Conference, the Marketplace Conference and the Pharmacy & Technology Conference — into a single, larger show.

"In the Total Store Expo, we have an innovative product that we are positioning as an integrated solution for all segments of the industry," Anderson commented. "It has the power to reach new levels of collaboration."

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