Based on the theme “Close to You,” the gathering featured presentations on health care innovation, global market developments and Alphega Pharmacy strategy, among other topics.
“Pharmacists are operating in a tough health care landscape, with increased competition, governmental pressures and changing customer expectations,” said Ornella Barra, co-chief operating officer of WBA. “Despite these challenges, I firmly believe that pharmacists have the qualities and commitment to succeed now and in the future.
“They have the talent and vision to evolve the profession for the long term, and I look forward to working with our members and partners to seize new opportunities together.”
Alphega was launched in 2001 and has grown to include more than 6,000 independent pharmacies in nine European nations: the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Romania, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom. The network is supported by Alliance Healthcare, which is part of WBA’s Pharmaceutical Wholesale Division.
Among the support services that Alphega members can receive from Alliance Healthcare are training and development; mentoring by expert consultants; tools to support financial management, operational efficiency and human resources; and impactful pharmacy branding. In addition, members receive discounts when purchasing Alliance Healthcare products.
It is worth noting that the Alphega Pharmacy network is not a franchise chain; members retain more independence than franchisees do. The network is tailored to each national market to meet different pharmacy regulations, as well as different customer and pharmacist needs, and to adapt to each country’s competitive landscape.
Barra noted that the “Close to You” theme actually debuted in September 2015 as part of a campaign to break down the traditional perception of the pharmacist. Alphega members, she adds, are embracing a new era of pharmacy and are both digitally connected and ready to provide the speed and convenience that customers increasingly expect.
In addition to the educational presentations, the convention celebrated recent achievements by the network, including its launch last year in Romania, where it already has more than 500 members, and its expansion in Turkey, where membership now totals more than 150. In Italy, the Alphega loyalty card program has now attracted almost 82,000 members. Coupons worth more than 141,000 euros ($150,000-plus) have been issued, helping drive customer traffic and sales.
The network has also had significant success with a number of pharmacy services, including mole screening, vascular age and diabetes risk awareness. The vascular age service, which has been rolled out to seven of Alphega’s nine markets, has been particularly successful, with more than 25,000 consumers taking advantage of it in the first 18 months since its introduction.
Barra acknowledged that there are challenging times ahead, but said pharmacy will face fewer problems than many other sectors of health care, and pharmacists need to anticipate and accept change. “We want to continue to develop this network of independent pharmacists and expand and strengthen the range of services we offer them,” she said. “Our goal is to reach 10,000 members and expand to other countries.”