Top industry executives discuss the prospects for their businesses and the sector as a whole for 2022.
With the pandemic surging, pharmacy chains are planning for new solutions to fight the variants. At the same time retailers are looking to broaden affordable and accessible health care offerings when many people find such services from more traditional providers out of financial reach. Chains are also bolstering their e-commerce appeal to entice omnichannel shoppers. Top industry executives discuss the prospects for their businesses and the sector as a whole for 2022.
Executive Vice President, Walgreens Boots Alliance and President of Walgreens
Although the retail landscape was undergoing significant change for the last several years, COVID-19 has dramatically increased expectations of consumers who are demanding more tailored and personal solutions to their needs.
This continues to be one of the emerging trends that will shape the retail landscape in 2022.
A recent Accenture study shows nearly two-thirds of consumers (63%) are interested in receiving personalized recommendations from brands. Delivering personalized lifestyle, wellness and disease management solutions — and offering them via the customer’s delivery method of choice is now more important than ever.
Leveraging data continues to be critical in meeting customers where they are. By using data to understand what we know about consumers we can create timely, relevant experiences that meet their needs now and remove friction throughout their shopping and health care experiences.
We are also using behavioral-driven research of audiences to unlock more interesting, personalized insights and to not only sell but shift to a mindset that strives to anticipate and solve customer problems. Insights and data gathering through our use of AI and machine learning help us to focus on the consumer’s needs to deliver value that is more relevant and goes beyond one-time transactions into building on-going relationships. We’ve seen a 100% increase in digital sales using our mass personalization capabilities.
The accelerating rise of omnichannel retailing is contributing to this change in how retailers interact with their customers. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, by 2022, digital commerce sales in the U.S. will grow to $4 trillion per year — a growth of more than 50% from 2017. The significant part of this growth will come from omnichannel purchases.
Our new omnichannel offerings enable customers to shop same-day delivery in under one hour or pick up in as little as 30 minutes for all of their health and well-being or last-minute needs while still maintaining social distancing. We scaled quickly during the pandemic to fulfill more than 23 million same-day orders.
The delivery of health care is also being affected by omnichannel strategies.
During the pandemic we saw the rise of telehealth. A recent Deloitte study shows 80% of patients who have experienced telehealth are likely to have another virtual visit, even post-COVID-19.
Fast, convenient and meaningful one-on-one interactions with health care providers like pharmacists will not only be the norm but the expectation.
At the center of our consumer-centric health care strategy is the launch of Walgreens Health. The new business segment is a technology-enabled care model powered by a nationally scaled, locally delivered health care platform.
Walgreens Health will bring equitable, personalized, whole-person health care to local communities across America, wherever and however it’s best for consumers — in store, at home, in the doctor’s office and via mobile app. Working alongside payors and providers across the country, Walgreens Health will create a better experience for consumers, improve health outcomes and lower costs by leveraging Walgreens’ strengths and assets, including trusted consumer relationships and community presence, national scale, care teams, and partnerships with payors and providers across the country.
Investments in VillageMD and CareCentrix will accelerate Walgreens Health capabilities in primary care and post-acute care to uniquely impact the patient care journey continuum, especially for high-risk patients with chronic conditions.
These investments build upon the newly launched physical and digital Walgreens Health Corners, which provide in-person and virtual clinical and nonclinical services from licensed health advisors.
The pandemic has provided further evidence community pharmacies play a crucial role in our health care ecosystem. In fact, the White House recently acknowledged two-thirds of all COVID-19 vaccinations are being provided by pharmacies around the country.
Walgreens pharmacy team members have administered more than 50 million COVID-19 vaccinations and 20 million COVID-19 tests across the United States. At the same time, the pandemic has intensified the focus on health inequities that led to the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black, Hispanic and medically underserved communities, and the importance of health equity.
We know good health care is deeply rooted in local communities, and we’re committed to expanding convenient access to high-quality and affordable health care services to our patients and customers in our neighborhood stores and across our digital platform.
Over the past year Walgreens has brought nearly 1,400 vaccine clinics to familiar locations like churches and community centers that are easily accessible and available to all eligible residents of medically underserved communities.
The pandemic has not only accelerated the changing ways we interact with our customers, it has also shown us the fragility of the nation’s supply chain. A cascading number of issues — from COVID-19-related factory lockdowns to labor shortages to inflated shipping container prices — have disrupted the supply chain for months.
Walgreens has invested a tremendous amount in our IT infrastructure to help our customers know when, where and how much inventory is available, whether it’s through Walgreens.com, same-day delivery or curbside pickup. Our merchandisers are keeping a close eye on making sure we are only stocking products if we can do so with a healthy supply to continue to meet customers’ needs.
One thing that has not changed during the pandemic is the commitment of our industry to sustainable business practices. Nearly half of business leaders, according to a recent UN Global Impact survey, are committed to implementing sustainability as part of their business operations.
As a health and well-being company, we see firsthand the impacts that climate change has on health — from illnesses from extreme weather events and extreme heat to respiratory diseases exacerbated by air quality — and we know we must act. This is essential to our purpose to help people lead more joyful lives through better health.
Recently Walgreens Boots Alliance announced a global, enterprise-wide climate target. Through this target we pledge to reduce our total greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by the end of fiscal 2030, compared with a baseline established in 2019.
I’m incredibly proud and grateful to our team members who have contributed and delivered in so many ways. These are the moments when our customers and patients need us most and when we can truly make a difference.
But we’re just getting started in terms of how we can mobilize to solve big, complex problems and doing what is in the best interests of our customers, patients and the communities we serve.
Chief Customer Officer of CVS Health and Co-President of CVS Pharmacy
Chief Pharmacy Officer of CVS Health and Co-President of CVS Pharmacy
We are excited to serve as co-presidents of the CVS Health retail business and look forward to working together to continue to further CVS Pharmacy’s commitment to offering consumers more personalized, convenient and affordable health care options. We are so proud and humbled by how our colleagues have stepped up throughout the pandemic to care for their communities; in fact, one of our first priorities was visiting our stores and distribution centers to witness firsthand the incredible work being done. Our colleagues provide deep and trusted everyday connections with our consumers and have enabled us to be the largest provider of COVID-19 services, from vaccines through testing. Importantly, the power of our store footprint combined with our analytics and grassroots efforts have allowed us to better target and allocate COVID-19 vaccine supply to underserved and high-risk populations across the U.S.
As we look ahead, we are building on our unique capabilities and ability to meet consumers where they are, as demonstrated by our leading work in COVID-19 testing and vaccinations, to apply our experience gained responding to the pandemic to broader health services. Pharmacists have become an increasingly powerful asset in providing care delivery for patients, as was made clear over the last two years. And we believe this expansion of the pharmacist’s role will continue, given the frequency of our consumer interactions, our community presence and the personal trust we have developed with our consumers. We will continue our acceleration into becoming a true health and wellness destination by optimizing our stores with three core models that include
• Sites dedicated to offering primary care services.
• An enhanced version of CVS HealthHUB locations with products and services designed for a broad range of health and wellness needs.
• Traditional CVS Pharmacy stores that provide prescription services and health, wellness and other convenient retail offerings.
We’ll also continue to grow and expand our omnichannel strategy. We were able to quickly scale consumer-first, digital-forward, omnichannel solutions over the past two years to deliver COVID-19 vaccines and testing services that are seamless, easy and intuitive for our consumers. Our work has enabled us to provide care that is convenient and accessible — wherever and whenever consumers need it — and ongoing care management solutions that are intelligent and personalized. We are making significant investments in our omnichannel pharmacy to connect all our pharmacy capabilities and assets to provide consumers with choice for all their pharmacy needs. We envision a digital-first approach to pharmacy interactions that will change the consumer experience, giving consumers maximum convenience across all their medications and pharmacy channels by delivering coordinated retail, specialty and mail order pharmacy all in one place.
Further, we’ll continue to drive loyalty and everyday engagement through ExtraCare, our leading loyalty platform, and CarePass, our paid health and wellness subscription, which has grown by 50% in the last year. We will evolve CarePass from a retail-centric solution into a true health and wellness offering by launching a robust suite of everyday health and wellness benefits and solutions. By using our digital-first approach, we will deliver more personalized health care experiences that generate improved outcomes for our consumers.
We are also deepening our commitment to health and wellness with new and exciting differentiated merchandise and store brands that help make CVS Pharmacy a destination of choice that provides exceptional care, personalized products and value. All this is provided to the customer through a multichannel platform with reliable fulfillment and delivery options. Our CVS Health store brands are a tangible part of our consumer-focused innovation and strategy. We launched 150 new products in exclusive store brand lines last year using sought-after ingredients and convenient packaging offered at affordable prices.
We will bring all this together through seamless, connected experiences across our assets — specifically positioning CVS.com as a premier health and wellness destination and creating a consumer-friendly entry point for all of our consumers’ health needs. We are incredibly excited about working together and the possibilities that lie ahead for our colleagues and consumers in 2022 and beyond.
President, Pharmaceutical Distribution and Medicine Shoppe International Inc., Cardinal Health
Pharmacists are closing in on two full years of COVID-19 pandemic response in their communities. Looking ahead to 2022, pharmacists will continue to be a resource for ongoing COVID-19 prevention and treatment as well as a trusted advisor for clinical care services.
A major concern in the year ahead is the impact of nationwide labor shortages. There is a critical need for front-end staff and skilled pharmacy technicians to help pharmacists manage the increased demand for clinical care services. Pharmacists are stretched thin, working overtime to manage an expanding workload, while doing what they can to minimize their patients’ wait times for service. This is a time of both opportunity and challenge for pharmacies. At Cardinal Health and Medicine Shoppe International Inc. (MSI) we recognize the critical role pharmacists have in their communities to improve health care outcomes, and we are working on two fronts to help them with advocacy and new solutions to help them remain competitive.
On the advocacy front we have joined with stakeholders to push for provider status under Medicare Part B to ensure Medicare beneficiaries can access health care services from their pharmacist. And we will continue to partner with the National Association of Chain Drug Stores to advocate for provider status legislation and DIR fee reform. We also continue to work with community pharmacies at the state level to support their efforts to advocate for their local issues.
Patients are becoming more proactive in managing their health care. They value the high-touch relationship they have with their pharmacist, and they also want the convenience of on-demand services. Our teams are developing innovative solutions to help pharmacies capitalize on these opportunities, deliver personalized service to patients, and unlock their highest level of performance.
The Cardinal Health NavixRx Compliance Packaging solution provides pharmacies with a personalized, scalable and affordable option to outsource costly and time-consuming prescription fulfillment for customers taking two or more medications. Utilizing a central-fill model, prescription medications and over-the-counter supplements are dispensed into a 30-day supply of daily strip packs and delivered through the pharmacy direct to the patient. Integrating with the pharmacy management system, NavixRx Compliance Packaging provides a consistent and safe way to support medication adherence.
Pharmacies looking to expand their digital services can start our E-Commerce Storefront solution. This digital platform expands the pharmacy to an online, on-demand virtual shopping experience for patients, while maintaining the relationship with their pharmacist. Connecting seamlessly into the pharmacy’s existing website, E-Commerce Storefront offers an endless aisle of more than 11,000 O-T-C products, without the need for inventory storage and management. Orders are automatically processed through the Cardinal Health distribution centers with standard shipment, providing a revenue stream for the pharmacy, while delivering on consumer expectations.
The pandemic elevated the importance of accessible diagnostic testing through pharmacies. The need to quickly diagnose respiratory illness, including COVID and influenza, will increase with relaxed pandemic-related safety protocols and the return to normal activities. As pharmacies prepare for an unpredictable respiratory season, our MyScheduling tool can help manage the workload, allowing patients and pharmacy staff to schedule point of care appointments. This reduces staff time associated with patient communications by utilizing automated text reminders. Patients can schedule their influenza vaccine and COVID vaccines and boosters at the same appointment, creating efficiencies and limiting the need for multiple appointments.
Pharmacists are important to their patients, and they have a significant impact on health care outcomes in their communities. In 2022, Cardinal Health and MSI continue to provide support and develop innovative solutions that help pharmacies solve unique challenges, drive value for their business and deliver high-touch clinical services to their patients.
President, Health Mart & Health Mart Atlas
This past year was another marked by disruption and uncertainty due to the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. But as we’ve learned, with change also comes opportunity. Looking forward to a new year ahead of us — which means new opportunities — I’m challenging pharmacy owners to evolve their business past the pandemic. Let’s use this moment in time to build an industry we’re proud of. Let’s reimagine what a retail pharmacy can truly be and how we come together as a team to make it happen. With that, here are three trends we’re watching in 2022:
• Growing Beyond Four Walls — In an era when consumers can order virtually anything online, request a ride on their phone, and track food from the restaurant to their front door, expectations for convenience and customer service are higher than ever. Expectations that are increasingly being applied to health care as well. Today, patients expect fast, reliable and convenient service from health care providers as they do from any other business. With evolving patient demands, pharmacies need to evolve the patient experience provided. The first step is to think about the patient journey and how pharmacy continues to play a vital role in that patient journey. The second step is personalization of care. While patients have higher demands, they still want the personal touch, whether virtually or in person, that only local, community pharmacies can provide with convenient, one-on-one quality care and tailored programs and services.
Much of this convenience and personalization of care today begins online, where patients seek information about health care and services. They are no longer willing to wait weeks to see a provider, only to be told their exam results will take even longer. This trend has created a remarkable opportunity for pharmacy teams to implement solutions which continuously improve convenience, speed and transparency of care. Digital capabilities are now a must-have, and pharmacies must address an omnichannel experience, offering multiple ways for patients to access services and information that help them manage their health. This could be as simple as ordering refills online, getting your drugs delivered to your home or creating a two-way digital communication with your pharmacist via an app.
Point-of-care diagnostics, including fitness trackers and smartwatches, which collect patient data and send it directly to the pharmacist and other providers, have been a fast-growing segment for years. Pharmacies must embrace remote monitoring and diagnostics and rethink their digital capabilities to maintain and increase patient engagement opportunities. Consumers are using virtual visits more than ever before and plan to continue using them past the pandemic.
• Moving Past Just Dispensing — Even before the pandemic, pharmacists were working to evolve their role from simply dispensing medications to taking on greater responsibility in the patient care continuum. Stepping up and serving as critical frontline health care providers during the pandemic, pharmacists have proven the value they bring to patients and to the entire health care system. It has never been so clear community pharmacies are essential to helping patients protect their health and wellness.
Receiving payment for COVID-19 testing and vaccines, pharmacists continue to march towards provider status. While there is more work to be done, the shift we’ve seen is unprecedented. It is time now to align practice acts and reimbursement for clinical services delivered by pharmacy providers to not just give temporary authority to provide clinical services but to enable sustainable payment for programs that offer long-term solutions for patient care needs.
Moving forward, community pharmacies must continue to facilitate a new patient-focused experience with new services and clinical offerings designed to meet the needs of the community, such as critical point-of-care testing, mental health support, durable medical equipment or an expanded vaccination program.
To stay competitive, pharmacies need to distinguish themselves by providing a personalized patient experience — whether that encounter occurs virtually or in person. Community pharmacists have the unique ability to provide personalized care in their communities because they know the patient, know their medications and actively keep tabs on their changing needs and expectations in order to provide the best experience.
Regardless of format or setting, using clinical services to continually support patients and drive better outcomes remains a top priority. Engaging tools to improve patient behavior and boost outcomes such as medication therapy management case completion, refill reminder programs, medication synchronization and behavioral coaching are all keys to success.
• Advocating for More Transparency — Ask independent pharmacists to name their biggest struggle today and, without skipping a beat, they’ll say being fairly reimbursed for the care they provide patients remains a challenge.
The current pharmacy payment model, based on dispensing without accounting for clinical services that optimize patient care, is outdated and unsustainable in our current health care system. As pharmacists routinely counsel patients on medication and health issues, new payment structures are needed to support pharmacists’ role as health care providers, allowing them to receive consistent reimbursement for disease state management, medication optimization and other valuable preventive services.
As pharmacy benefit managers become more centralized to the payer environment and the process becomes more and more complex, the lack of transparency over pharmacy revenue and drug costs is only increasing. According to a recent report from the PBM Accountability Project, payers and patients cannot properly evaluate the cost and quality of the pharmacy benefits they receive due to PBMs’ multilayered, proprietary business models and general lack of transparency.
Fortunately, the industry is moving more and more to value-based reimbursement, and we are at a stage where community pharmacy must prepare for value-based care. We need to focus on demonstrating the impact pharmacies have on patient outcomes and reducing total cost of care. Not only is it the right thing for our patients, but it is also critical to the bottom line.
To maintain this momentum, we encourage pharmacies to join and support industry organizations like the National Community Pharmacists Association and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores that are focusing efforts on driving transparency, as well as expanding performance-based payment models.
In 2022 and beyond, blending new ways to serve patients will create stronger businesses and better serve patients. We’re excited to see where community pharmacy owners will take our industry in the next decade.
President, Corporate Partnerships, AmerisourceBergen
2021 was yet another transformational year for large retail pharmacies as they further grounded themselves in the minds of consumers as a centralized health care destination for those in need of rapid testing, vaccinations and, of course, general health matters. As we enter 2022 and consumer needs and demands continue to evolve, the Corporate Partnerships team at AmerisourceBergen, which supports large retail pharmacies, continues to partner with our customers to meet consumers’ needs and plan for the long term.
As we enter the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Corporate Partnerships team is committed as an organization within AmerisourceBergen to continue practicing radical curiosity about our customers and their business. Not only on the pharmacy side through and through but also truly understanding our customers beyond the dispense. As the role of retail pharmacies shifts, we’re working to shape AmerisourceBergen’s core capabilities in distribution excellence to evolve our support of customers and their strategies.
For example, consumers’ and patients’ demand for convenience is ever growing. In 2022, everything we thought in 2021 and more will dictate a consumer’s experience with a retail pharmacy. Whether it’s hassle-free prescription delivery or care delivered closer to home, we’re excited to strategically partner with our customers and leverage our core capabilities to meet consumers and patients where they are.
Pilot programs have been critical in bolstering our foundation of flexibility and drive to collaborate with retailers, even on small-scale projects. Instituting changes on a smaller scale — such as new tools to enable better forecasting or smarter inventory management, for example — and learning what worked, what didn’t, and how we would or wouldn’t change course for the future has been invaluable. It’s allowed both us and our customers to remain nimble amidst every obstacle that has come along. And our eagerness for co-creation, and addressing challenges through strategic solutions, is one of the ways we’ve remained a trusted distribution partner for retail pharmacies.
That trust is something we highly value and continue to measure. We recently surveyed our Corporate Partnerships customers in the areas of trust, satisfaction and retention and discovered that our deep understanding of their unique businesses paired with our ability to collaborate and co-create solutions is what sets us apart. We’re particularly proud that we’ve consistently improved our relationships and quality of service with customers amid this turbulent time. In 2022, we’re laser-focused on a few measurements, such as trust and our ability to drive tangible value. We look forward to seeing how those priority areas continue to trend moving forward.
As we look ahead to another year, the Corporate Partnerships team at AmerisourceBergen is looking forward to a renewed collaboration with our customers to advance their business objectives through our personalized guidance and tailored strategies. And, reaching that end goal all starts with our people. The passion, ambition and conviction of each individual on our team enable us to do our very best as a key collaborator for large retailers.
VP Pharmacy, Fruth Pharmacy
The pace of change has rapidly accelerated in 2021 for all industries. Pharmacy’s ability to secure wide-scale public health positive outcomes with vaccination and testing has spotlighted the critical role community pharmacy serves in health care, particularly in rural areas. Fruth pharmacists have spent more time directly engaged with improving our customers health than was possible years ago. Fruth has completed over 100,000 combined COVID vaccinations and tests in our communities, and there are now many pharmacies in America administering monoclonal antibody treatments and saving patients’ lives.
Looking forward into 2022, pharmacy will continue to see script counts below pre-COVID levels combined with continued erosion of the already unsustainable reimbursement levels. There is also unlikely to be any fix for the manufacturers that refuse to participate with contract pharmacies in the 340b program without federal legislation. DIR fees paid out now exceed 5% of total revenue for many pharmacies. The revenue from testing and high vaccination rates has put a band-aid on the broken bones of pharmacy reimbursement. The professional services pharmacy provides must be compensated for, and the need for pharmacy to engage has never been more critical.
Future strategy for fair and sustainable reimbursement is actionable at the state level. The Supreme Court Rutledge decision and subsequent 8th circuit PCMA v. Wehbi decision bring pharmacy a path forward. States can regulate PBMs in many areas without ERISA preemption and in some areas without Medicare Part D preemption. Fruth dedicated the time and resources necessary in West Virginia to help ensure passage into law West Virginia House Bill 2263. This is a landmark law that forces drug rebates to benefit the patient and not the PBMs. The law also sets a minimum reimbursement in the state of NADAC (National Average Drug Acquisition Cost) plus a $10.49 dispense fee and has critical provisions protecting 340b in the state.
Federal legislation is needed to address 340b. The program can’t be fixed with nonbinding guidelines, mixed messages about Health and Human Services authority, and HHS’ rule-making authority currently doesn’t extend to contract pharmacy. 340b revenue is critical to rural and underserved areas. The clinics and hospitals in the areas cannot survive without the contract pharmacy revenue. Contract pharmacies need to be protected for the community access to affordable medicine as well. The profession of pharmacy needs to protect dispensing fees for community pharmacies in the program. Pharmacies cannot participate in a costly program to run without reimbursement that doesn’t cover the operational and financial burdens of participation.
There will be no DIR relief without constant contact and persistent pressure from community pharmacy. The good intentions of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to capture available discounts from manufacturers has steadily morphed into a cancerous profit grab by PBMs with no basis on actual patient outcomes. The fees have doubled for many pharmacies year after year and will put thousands of community pharmacies out of business in the next few years without action to stop them. The system must be designed with performance incentives (not penalties) that are paid on top of reimbursement that covers the operating costs of a pharmacy.
In 2022 community pharmacy must again take up the charge for the public and provide the necessary testing and vaccines to fight this pandemic. Pharmacy also has the opportunity to dramatically affect patient lives and reduce the burden on overwhelmed providers with point-of-care testing and immediate administration of COVID oral therapies. Get your plan together now on how you can respond for your community.
In the coming year Fruth is ready to provide the local access, resources and outreach to directly fight the pandemic. Fruth is actively involved in several local, state and federal policy issues. We are taking up the fight in state tax reform, West Virginia House Bill 2263 enforcement actions, drafting of pharmacy language, expert testimony for committees, health plan reform, managed Medicaid reform, provider status, and 340b. Pharmacies across the nation must regularly meet with their elected representatives and state agencies. It takes hours to educate them, but they are willing to listen. Pharmacy is making a difference in the community, and we must educate the public about the real danger of losing access to health care in their communities. In Washington, Pharma and PCMA have more lobbyists than there are senators and congressmen combined. These lobbyists work full time to press their agendas at the state and federal level. What are you doing to effect change in pharmacy?
CEO, Pharmasave National
Canada is recognized around the world for its robust, accessible heath care, and pharmacies are often the first health care resource accessed by Canadians. Pharmasave has led the way in the industry with its strong community focus.
Throughout the pandemic, Pharmasave pharmacists have remained committed to helping their communities stay healthy, whether that means stepping up virtual care services, offering COVID-19 vaccinations or providing timely health tips and information. Our pharmacists have embraced secure technology to provide virtual care to patients to maintain their health and stay on course with medication regimens. Many patients have adopted virtual services and appreciate the extra steps taken to stay connected.
As Canadians braced for a hard-hitting flu season amid COVID-19, media outlets across the country turned to Pharmasave pharmacists for expert guidance. Through online, print, radio and television interviews, our pharmacists helped to keep people healthy and safe by answering questions related to their COVID-19 concerns, advising on vaccinations and reminding them about the importance of getting the flu shot.
Pharmasave pharmacists also found special ways to give back throughout the pandemic, such as fundraising to support local food banks, making donations to medical facilities, and providing PPE and related products to those in need.
The result of our ongoing work to keep communities healthy and safe has been continued growth. Over the past year, we’ve grown to more than 815 stores across Canada as more and more independent retailers are attracted to our model. Our fully integrated and supported e-commerce strategy, the first to be introduced by an independent drug store chain, is particularly appealing.
What sets Pharmasave’s approach apart from other e-commerce sites in the retail pharmacy space is our community-centric focus. Our technology team does the heavy technical lifting, preloading each independent site with core offerings and branded products. Owners can easily add niche products specific to their store. Pharmasave provides assistance with implementation, set-up and full-scale training. Once the site is live, each independent store operator manages their own inventory, sales and customer relationships.
Independent retailers also see the positive results of our ongoing investment in an advanced digital strategy that keeps us ahead of consumer demand for leading-edge online services. For example, when the number of people using the eCare@Pharmasave prescription management platform surged during the pandemic, we quickly responded by adding fingerprint and facial recognition to simplify the login process. At the same time, pharmacists were able to use MedAlign@Pharmasave, our comprehensive medication adherence platform, to synchronize patient refills to come due on the same day.
The pandemic has created a new norm in retail pharmacy, one that includes virtual consults, e-prescribing and contact-free shopping. As key members of their local public health teams, Pharmasave pharmacists remain committed to personalized service in order to help their communities stay healthy. That means offering COVID-19 and flu vaccinations, providing timely health tips, and introducing new programs for chronic disease prevention, diabetes risk assessment and prevention, smoking cessation, opioid dependency management or nutrition, and more.
The more primary care shifts away from acute care settings back out to our communities, the more we need to remain focused on building collaborative circles of care, where patients, pharmacists and caregivers have the tools they need to work together and ensure everyone is on the same page. Our goal is to lead the way forward through innovation, and we have more transformative work planned for the months ahead, including advances to our e-commerce strategy and new developments for our eCare and MedAlign programs.
Community-based, patient-centric care has always been at the heart of what we do at Pharmasave. We’re just doing it differently now. We’ve shown that no matter what challenges the world may bring our way, Pharmasave will remain focused on achieving and maintaining better health outcomes for everyone.
Pharmasave continues to provide members with the most complete programs, services and support available to independent pharmacists. Personalized, relationship-based care, in-store and online, differentiates our pharmacies and is at the core of our strategy. The enduring strength of Pharmasave’s trusted national brand and our resilient, entrepreneurial spirit keep us well positioned as Canada’s best community pharmacy.
President of Good Neighbor Pharmacy, AmerisourceBergen
Those of us in the industry know that independent community pharmacies have always gone above and beyond to provide high-quality care and a uniquely personal and local experience for patients, but their immense value is finally getting the recognition it deserves from the broader public. Their dedication to serving their patients and keeping their communities healthy throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has been nothing short of heroic. It has been an honor and a privilege to work alongside these fearless pharmacies to create healthier futures in communities across the country.
I recently stepped into the role of president of Good Neighbor Pharmacy, having spent the last 20 years working within our Good Neighbor Pharmacy organization and in many different roles during that time. I couldn’t be prouder to continue helping our independent pharmacy customers showcase their value and deliver the trusted local care that patients are seeking now more than ever.
Over the last several years, and particularly throughout the pandemic, we’ve made significant investments in our Good Neighbor Pharmacy Network and members to ensure they could continue meeting the rapidly changing needs of patients and the health care system. In such a short period of time, independent pharmacies were forced to completely modify their operations to meet their community’s specific needs — from closing their doors to keep their staff and customers safe, to implementing curbside pickup and home delivery services, to deploying new digital patient engagement strategies to reach patients in their homes. They met these challenges with an unwavering commitment to care, and Good Neighbor Pharmacy was a trusted partner at every step. We invested thousands of team member hours in advocacy, personalized support, IT infrastructure, marketing materials and more to help pharmacies navigate operational changes, maintain access to critical products and stand up COVID-19 testing and vaccination programs.
We are particularly proud of our members’ role in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, which has helped create broader and more equitable access to COVID vaccines across the country. To date, Good Neighbor Pharmacy and AmerisourceBergen have allocated more than 3.5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to over 1,600 pharmacies since February 2021, with data showing that close to 50% of individuals vaccinated by our network pharmacies live in ZIP codes with a high Social Vulnerability Index (SVI), according to the CDC.
As we look ahead, Good Neighbor Pharmacy is committed to providing the services and solutions that will enhance our customers’ ability to serve patients and protect their business today and in the future. We are focused on helping pharmacies diversify their offerings and clinical services, such as implementing medication synchronization programs that fill all of a patient’s scripts at the same time every month or branching out to offer pet medications and over-the-counter products. Point-of-care testing is another priority — the pandemic was certainly an accelerator in this area, but 60% of respondents in a National Community Pharmacists Association survey expect more pharmacies to offer point-of-care testing moving forward. We’re helping our customers implement and market these programs while providing access to state-of-the-art test kits that can rapidly detect COVID-19, Flu A and Flu B with just one sample. Good Neighbor Pharmacy is also continuously investing in digital tools and capabilities to help pharmacies make better data-driven decisions to improve business performance — from platforms to optimize marketing and retail strategies to patient engagement and analytics tools that help pharmacies understand the needs of current patients and attract new ones.
This past year has undoubtedly challenged each and every part of the health care system, but independent pharmacies have proven their resilience and demonstrated that they can and should play a larger role in patient care. AmerisourceBergen and Good Neighbor Pharmacy look forward to continued collaboration and partnership with our customers to deliver dependable, accessible and equitable care across the country.
Senior Vice President, Outcomes, Cardinal Health
The health care ecosystem has experienced steady change over the last few years, and these changes have only accelerated since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Digital innovation, more accurate and accessible data and patient demands for convenient care and faster results have all been drivers of the shifts we’ve recently experienced.
We’ve seen increases in clinical interaction and engagement with community pharmacists, mostly due to COVID-19 testing, vaccines, vaccine boosters and flu shots being administered at the pharmacy. The ecosystem was already moving in this direction prior to the onset of COVID-19, but the pandemic pushed the needle towards a more patient-centric, technology-based approach to health care.
The user experience across the ecosystem must deliver what patients value most: convenience and better outcomes. Platforms seamlessly connecting patients to providers can help get us there. The need to move from only reviewing and dispensing prescriptions to creating moments that make a difference drove Outcomes to introduce tools that benefit both patients and pharmacists. These tools, including mobile apps, telecounseling and the scheduling solution MyScheduling, make it easier for pharmacies to deliver comprehensive solutions aimed at improving health. Stories shared by patients around the importance of intervention, adherence and innovation motivate the Outcomes team and support the impact that community pharmacists have in this environment.
The technology that supports this information throughout the network must be intelligent, adaptable and easy to use. Pharmacists will continue to play a larger role in providing clinical services to their patients, and the best way to make this happen is to give them the tools to digitally engage their patients, document interactions and point-of-care services and ensure reimbursement. Offering patients digital solutions, including refill reminders, delivery tracking, appointment scheduling and video consultations, ensures pharmacies will be brought up to the same on-demand standards to which patients have become accustomed. The Connect platform offered by Outcomes provides these solutions to pharmacies, helping them stay connected to their patients while delivering additional services beyond the prescription. With the addition of artificial intelligence and the use of machine learning, we will be able to predict which patients would benefit from digital or nondigital interventions and determine the best channels to align with the goals of pharmacists, payers and patients to improve adherence and positively impact outcomes.
Awareness, education and affordability are crucial in terms of patients starting, stopping or continuing on a specific therapy. With this in mind, technology can help pharmacies connect with another significant piece of the health care landscape: the manufacturer. With new products, treatments and changes in coverage, digital tools can help ensure medication adherence and offset expensive prescriptions through co-pay cards or discount programs. This will allow pharmacists to provide a better experience to the patient and connect back to the manufacturer to share the value of a product or program.
Community pharmacists are critical to patient care. They are seeing patients more frequently and are viewed as a trusted health care provider. Innovative and intelligent platforms provide pharmacists with insights that help promote broader solutions towards care. In this rapidly changing landscape, pairing data with technology is a game changer that will truly result in improved patient outcomes.
General Manager, Pharmacy, London Drugs
Keeping people connected in the interest of their well-being has remained a priority for London Drugs during the pandemic, and it will continue to be a focus for 2022. We are privileged that our pharmacists and technology experts can assist customers with all their needs in one location, or by the tap of a finger.
London Drugs carries a wide range of smart tech that helps customers take control of their personal health, and keep track of everything from heart rate, blood pressure and blood glucose to sleep, activity and more. But tracking your health is just the start.
With more focus than ever on patient outcomes and condition management, the landscape of connected wellness is evolving at a fast pace. While the pharmacy team at London Drugs provides training and advice on condition management, the technology team provides advice and support on device management — the two departments work together seamlessly to provide quality and personalized care.
We are uniquely positioned to support customers with device management. Not only do we help track and monitor results, but we also have the tools to share your health data with pharmacists, physicians or health care providers, and caregivers or family, all through your smartphone or tablet.
At London Drugs, 99% of the customer journey starts at the pharmacy, but we are fortunate that our stores are able to bring health and technology together for our customers. All staff in our technology departments are comfortable with a selection of connected wellness devices, and many are trained with health devices to ensure that technology and wellness work together to manage a patient’s health.
The post-pandemic digital transformation has improved health care in many ways, primarily by increasing access to health care services for individuals. At London Drugs, our personal care values are exemplified through our in-store and digital offerings, customer service and innovation. This year, we aim to ensure that our trusted teams in pharmacy and technology continue to work hand in hand to find a connected wellness solution that works for all of our customers.
CEO, Genoa Healthcare
The health care landscape has changed profoundly since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, driving the need for corresponding changes in how pharmacy services are delivered. Genoa Healthcare, a leading behavioral health pharmacy, is evolving to meet the changing needs of consumers and providers by expanding our services and points of access, and by building on our technology and clinical expertise.
The health care staffing crunch and the shift to telehealth are two of the biggest challenges the industry faced in 2021, and will continue to navigate this year. Genoa’s pharmacies, which are primarily located on site within behavioral health clinics nationwide, have stepped up with additional services that help bridge the gap between short-staffed or remote clinic teams and their patients.
Immunization services are one area of significant growth. Genoa’s pharmacies last year increased the number of flu shots delivered by more than 60% over the prior year, and expanded the availability of other immunizations to provide a stopgap for stretched clinic staff and to support patient health. Where regulations allow, our Genoa pharmacies also provide long-acting injectable (LAI) medications to support treatment of mental illness and substance use disorder.
While telehealth provides welcome flexibility for many patients — particularly people living in health care deserts and those with transportation barriers — it can create new challenges for patients requiring a higher level of care, including those living with severe mental illness. Most of the people Genoa’s pharmacies serve are on Medicare or Medicaid, and many face barriers to care such as lack of permanent housing and transportation, requiring extra support to stay on their treatment plans.
Our pharmacies help maintain engagement with consumers via wellness checks and regular refill reminder calls. Crucially, because our pharmacies are integrated with clinics and build trusting relationships with clinic staff, Genoa’s pharmacists are able to alert providers in real time if consumers are not adherent to their medication plans or exhibit concerning signs.
When appropriate, Genoa also engages its Clinical Services division to conduct Comprehensive Medication Management (CMM) services for at-risk patients with complex medication regimens to identify and address any drug therapy problems. Many of Genoa’s consumers have complex health issues and require multiple medications for behavioral health conditions as well as such conditions as diabetes, high blood pressure and others.
Genoa is also focusing on technology innovation in the pharmacy to accommodate the shift to telehealth. This includes new digital resources to make it easier for patients to engage with pharmacists remotely and to provide seamless integration between the pharmacy and providers’ telehealth platforms.
Pharmacy teams also promote medication adherence with free prepackaged pill organizers, help navigate prior authorizations and payments issues, and deliver other hands-on services. Our provider net promoter score of 80 and consumer NPS of 94 reflects the close and trusting relationships pharmacy teams build with their clinic partners.
Unfortunately, mental illness and substance use disorder are on the rise in the U.S., driving a greater need for access to quality behavioral health treatment, including pharmacy care. Genoa has more than 610 pharmacies in 47 states and expects to continue adding sites in the year ahead as the need for access continues to expand.
To better serve this population, Genoa has an ongoing commitment to expanding our pharmacy teams’ expertise in behavioral health. For example, all Genoa pharmacists and technicians are required to complete Mental Health First Aid training to be prepared to assess and respond to patients experiencing a mental health crisis.
The transformational changes that have buffeted the health care industry in 2021 are likely to deepen in 2022. As the patient and provider needs for pharmacy care evolve in the year ahead, Genoa Healthcare is poised to meet them.
Co-CEOs, PharmaChoice Canada
The past 18 to 20 months have been more than challenging for our pharmacy owners and their staff to provide top-notch pharmaceutical care throughout this pandemic to all our patients. We would like to thank all PharmaChoice and RxHealthMed banner members’ frontline staff workers for their commitment to show up every day and surpass our customers’ expectation on all fronts. Just like at Cheers, we are proud to say that our pharmacy staff know our customers by name and that personal connection is key in our relationship with our patients.
While 2021 was challenging from a retail point of view, with different levels of restrictions in various provinces, we experienced positive sales growth based on same-store results. We recognize that we are fortunate to be working in an industry that is forecasting positive prescription growth for the next three to five years. We did adapt by having more of our banner members provide curbside pickup or delivery, and our customers did take advantage, especially during restrictive times. Our pharmacy app for prescription refills has seen a major uptake as well. In addition, as a national group, we delivered well over a million vaccine doses, and counting, to our customers.
As we move into 2022, we are continuing to offer COVID vaccines, including booster shots, and for children from 5 to 12. Our pharmacy staff understand the value of maximizing vaccinations as necessary on the road to returning to a more normal way of living. Social distancing and mask wearing will be a part of our lives for some time, but every effort is being made to reach herd immunity on the vaccine side.
It is our expectation that 2022 will provide a less bumpy road from a retail point of view. Even though we know there will be supply challenges, price increases and more competition, we are well suited to continue to leverage our patient/customer equity to grow our same-store sales further. We continue to promote aggressive consumer offers, including a strong focus on private label to bring a value proposition to our customers in a time of increased inflation. We will be adding new private label categories in 2022 in the household and food categories to help provide more value to our customers as their dollar is stretched thinner. We have also enhanced our promotions with a strong loyalty up-sell, and we have positively measured the basket size increase. As our promotional strategy evolves, so does how we interact with our customers. Investments in digital marketing strategies will complement our strong personal presence to help meet the needs of our customers whenever and wherever they may be.
The pandemic has taught us several lessons and uncovered some challenges faced by the health care system. Adherence to medication, access to primary care, and a willingness to try new service models are all opportunities. Focusing on these challenges and actively engaging with our patients to help them live their best life. Our members have demonstrated resiliency this past year and have proven what pharmacy is capable of in the health care system. We look forward to the future and where our role is heading.
In preparation for the shift community pharmacy is experiencing, we have been actively engaging with innovative companies looking to tackle the most complex challenges. From next-level adherence systems, supports for wellness and mental health, exploring the next generation of virtual care, and the development of clinical tools designed to close the gap in care patients have been facing, we know complex challenges require multifaceted solutions, and we are committed to moving forward to provide the best care for our patients and support for the pharmacy teams.
As our membership grows, so does our voice within the industry. Advocacy within the profession has never been more important for the simple reason that the pandemic has disrupted the system and policy makers have been forced to listen to our voices. Working with provincial and federal associations, we will have a greater focus as pharmacy settles into a post-pandemic model. Our voice of independent pharmacy will continue to grow to help guide the profession towards a model of sustainability, patient focused care and the professional autonomy to practice in the best needs of our patients.
With 2021 behind us and easier access to meeting with pharmacy owners face to face, we expect that we will see more pharmacies join our membership and we will surpass the 1,000 pharmacy members in our system. We continue to upgrade and enhance various program elements to ensure that our member pharmacies have all the necessary tools that they need for success. We continue to work hard to be the best choice for independent pharmacy. In a market that has faced and continues to face tremendous pressures, our success is measured by the success of our members.