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Health Mart helps bridge competitive gap

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'We’ve invested in providing pharmacies a pathway,' president says

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SAN FRANCISCO — Health Mart has spurred its rapid growth by helping to level the competitive playing field for its member pharmacies with innovative programs and tools, according to president Steve Courtman.

The McKesson Corp. pharmacy franchise, now with 4,610 locally owned pharmacies in all 50 states, has seen its ranks swell by more than 700 over the past year or so.

“We’re helping our pharmacies find ways to bridge the reimbursement gap by leveraging their competitive advantage, their industry-leading personal service and customer satisfaction,” says Courtman. “Research shows that consumers want a knowledgeable pharmacist and staff whom they can trust.”

He notes that Health Mart focuses on three key areas to help pharmacies grow: gaining access to preferred networks with top clinical performance, drawing patients into the stores and expanding services for added revenue.

“We’ve invested in providing our pharmacies a pathway that helps them move from a transaction-based dispensing model to a common approach to profitability through enhanced patient interaction and better patient outcomes,” he explains.

As patient outcomes have come into sharper focus, Health Mart is helping its pharmacies to perform their best clinically and adopt innovative business practices to drive medication adherence and deliver quality patient care, such as through peer-to-peer advising and its Med Sync medication synchronization program, Courtman says.

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Steve Courtman

Along with its current series of town hall meetings, Health Mart has invested heavily to help pharmacies get in sync at every step of their Med Sync journey with the development of the online Health Mart University Learning Experience and Med Sync Playbook. The Med Sync Learning Experience provides an online road map to connect pharmacies to resources and training to help them successfully implement and maximize the Med Sync program.

Health Mart has also created the patient-facing brand SimpleSync, which includes physician and patient marketing materials that help pharmacies advertise their new Med Sync service.

Nearly 40% of Health Mart stores are top 20% performers in at least one of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Medicare Part D Star Ratings measures, the company says, adding that its goal is to be in the top 20% as a network.

“That is why we have invested in several new staff pharmacist roles designed to help guide Health Mart members with education, tools and implementation support at each step,” says Courtman, “starting with understanding and monitoring their performance to deliver top results in Medicare Part D Star Rating measures, synchronizing patient prescriptions to free up time and improve outcomes, and ultimately using the appointment-based model to offer patient-centered services that increase customer satisfaction and pharmacy revenue.”

With its appointment-based model, Med Sync also offers pharmacies a powerful tool for maintaining customer loyalty, building strong relationships with other health care providers in the community and increasing pharmacy profits, adds Courtman.

Independent pharmacies face a number of critical issues today, including provider status, vaccination requirements and fairer models for pharmacy reimbursement factors, according to Courtman. “Expanded scope of practice for pharmacists is clearly catching on in some states, but there is more work to be done there,” he says.

On the reimbursement front, Courtman points to the Covered Outpatient Drug final rule, which CMS published in January. The rule addresses key areas of Medicaid generic drug reimbursement and changes made to the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program by the Affordable Care Act. It requires states to evaluate all portions of reimbursement — both the ingredient cost reimbursement and the professional dispensing fee reimbursement — when proposing changes to either of these components, to ensure that total reimbursement to pharmacy providers is adequate to preserve patient access.

CMS has acknowledged that states must take several time-consuming steps — including legislative and regulatory changes and submission of a state plan amendment — to implement the required reimbursement changes and corresponding dispensing fee changes. As a result, CMS has provided a compliance date of April 1, 2017.

Legislation and regulation, in Courtman’s view, can present both opportunities and concerns for community pharmacy at the state and federal levels of government.

“We encourage Health Mart owners and pharmacists to get involved in pharmacy advocacy efforts,” he says. “Simple ways for pharmacists to get started are by getting to know their elected representatives, engaging in their pharmacy associations and learning about the key public policy issues that face community pharmacy practice today.”

Pharmacists, according to Courtman, are among the most respected and trusted professionals in the country. “They work tirelessly every day to help patients get and stay healthy.”


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