CAMP HILL, Pa. — During HLTH VRTL 2020, the leading, large-scale event for health care innovation held last month, Rite Aid Corp. chief operating officer Jim Peters highlighted the company’s RxEvolution and how it will reshape the chain drug store industry in a keynote address to the conference.
HLTH brings together all the major stakeholders of the health ecosystem, including payers, providers, employers, pharma, startups and investors, as well as representatives from government, media and industry analysts.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic completely flipped the retail industry — and the world for that matter — on its head, it had already become clear, in Peters’ view, that fundamental changes were needed to make health care work for people across the country.
Conditions such as obesity, anxiety, depression and other mental health issues had become pervasive, and lack of sleep constituted a true health barrier while opioid abuse continued to be a national crisis.
At the same time, people faced higher-than-ever deductibles and longer-than-ever wait times to see a doctor, only to spend less time with that doctor once they got into the room. It’s the responsibility of those in the health care industry, Peters said, to respond to these issues.
Retail clinics, he noted, were one attempt to deal with these myriad issues, and self-help apps were another. It became increasingly clear, however, that some of these care model innovations, such as retail pharmacies owning primary care clinics, which were designed to help cure the country’s broken system, actually had the opposite effect, according to Peters, which resulted in increasing utilization, further fragmenting care, detaching people from their integrated care teams — all causing health care consumers to fall through the cracks.
“We all realized that the health care system that we were in was in dire need of change well before COVID-19,” he said, adding that when he joined Rite Aid last fall, the company developed and embarked upon an entirely new strategy — not just a new strategy for Rite Aid, but one for the entire industry, one that elevated pharmacists as the everyday weapon used by providers and health plans “to help keep patients and members connected to their care teams, adherent to their medications, aware of their care gaps and educated on a broader spectrum of remedies that go well beyond traditional medicines.”
This strategy — RxEvolution — represents a comprehensive plan that doubles down on Rite Aid’s pharmacy business and focuses on unlocking the value of pharmacies and pharmacists while revitalizing Rite Aid’s retail and digital experience and becoming the dominant mid-market pharmacy benefits manager.
“We see an incredible opportunity for Rite aid to go deep in our communities and unlock the true value of the pharmacist,” Peters said. “From my career in health care, I’ve come to believe that pharmacists have been the single most underutilized providers and the answer to that missing link in the last mile of health care when people are not in a doctor’s office, but out and about living their everyday lives.”
Rite Aid’s full rebrand launch is far more than a new logo, according to Peters, and involves substance and impact that addresses every single step of the consumer journey, both digitally and in-store — and lays out a new approach to pharmacy and its role in health care and how it can elevate health care to help communities thrive.
Pharmacists, as Peters pointed out, are among the most trusted health care professionals in America, with more than 90% of consumers stating that they trust their pharmacists when it comes to their health care concerns and needs.
Tapping into this trust, Peters said Rite Aid began reimagining its entire business strategy, exploring how the company could best enable and unleash pharmacists to address the mind, body and spirit of each and every customer.
“So the neighborhoods we serve can go beyond healthy and actually get thriving. And tying back to that broken health care system,” he said, “we knew if our pharmacists could be our consumers’ trusted everyday clinical touchpoint, someone they see handfuls of time in between each doctor’s visit, then our pharmacist could actually play a critical role in helping drive better health outcomes.”
The company’s new strategy can be seen in its “store of the future,” which will have the pharmacist out in front and not behind a wall counting pills. It will include virtual care rooms, allowing pharmacists to not only consult but also connect customers to their community-based care teams or other providers.
“The store of the future definitely is a completely different experience than any other retail pharmacy in the market,” Peters said. “You feel welcome. It feels fresh. It’s light. It encourages you to browse and shop and identify new products that you may not have even known were on the market.”