Care Pharmacies builds on strong year

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Chief executive Michael Wysong: 'We have the right operating model'

LINTHICUM, Md. — For Care Pharmacies, 2014 was a year of impressive top-line growth while the company continued to focus on infrastructure improvement with a number of technology initiatives.

Sales for the year soared 26.6% to $463.3 million, driven largely by the entry into the market of hepatitis C drugs, says chief executive officer Michael Wysong. As a result, sales per store for the 79-store retailer-owned cooperative chain increased to $5.8 million from $4.8 million in 2013.

While revenue growth benefited from specialty drugs entering the market, the organization remained focused on strengthening its infrastructure with some major technology moves.

Last fall Care adopted PDX Inc.’s Enterprise Pharmacy System (EPS) as its main pharmacy platform. The system will allow Care pharmacists to go beyond filling scripts and expand their role to providing other services such as patient counseling and medication therapy management.

Late last year Care selected TCGRx to provide products and develop services to upgrade its medication adherence program and work flow management. Care also adopted a new point-of-sale (P-O-S) system from Retail Management Solutions.

“Most other P-O-S providers are spread across the retail spectrum [but] RMS has demonstrated a single focus and dedication to pharmacy,” says Mark Ey, Care Pharmacies’ director of operations and support services. ”Its broad range of solutions will support the many specialized services that Care pharmacies offer, including a mobile delivery solution.”

Wysong_Michael_Care Pharmacies_headshot

Michael Wysong

The P-O-S solutions are being tailored to specific Care Pharmacies locations, which is an important benefit because of the wide variety of member pharmacies.

“We have a very diversified membership,” Wysong points out. “We have all types of pharmacies: metropolitan and rural, traditional retail and specialty drug. The challenge is that we have to be able to support that variety.”

The variety of Care’s member pharmacies reflects the dynamic and diverse patient populations served across the Mid-Atlantic region. Within the District of Columbia, for example, Care pharmacies dispense a significant amount of HIV drugs, and the majority of member pharmacies have an expertise in specialty drugs that is reflected in 2014’s strong sales growth, Wysong adds.

The company’s operational structure is unique, he says, because it acknowledges both community pharmacy and specialty pharmacy operators who are members of Care Pharmacies.

“We like that model because it takes advantage of both types of pharmacy and brings them together,” he explains. “The challenge is to create an infrastructure that enables them to deliver the continuity of care that many payers are going to require moving forward. We are still squarely focused on making sure we do not lose access to patients through preferred or narrow networks.”

For 2015, Wysong says, the focus will be on enhancing and getting recognition of the quality of care the company’s pharmacies deliver.

“We want to continue to differentiate our chain of community and specialty pharmacies by driving better outcomes, and we want to do that as we address some of the patient access issues that have emerged as the whole landscape of health care moves from a fee-for-service model to a pay-for-value model,” he elaborates. “We think we’re well positioned to do that.”

One big change that has already occurred in 2015 is a transition in pharmaceutical sourcing to McKesson Corp., which took place on April 1. Sourcing has become important, Wysong notes, because declining reimbursements have made it imperative to purchase costly specialty drugs at the best prices possible.

For independent pharmacies, he adds, it is no longer enough to belong to a large buying group. To compete successfully in today’s market, it is essential to be part of an organization with the expertise and services to support the independent and help it maintain patient access.

Despite the daunting challenges of the U.S. health care industry today, Wysong is bullish on the future. “We have the right operating model,” he says.


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