MISSISSAUGA, Ontario — As drug chains across North America continue to evolve, many are exploring new ways to expand their business going forward. At the Katz Group’s Rexall chain, that has meant putting a greater emphasis on health care and delivering cost-effective solutions for businesses.
“We have always been a health care provider first,” says Tracey Phillips, director of pharmacy services and marketing, about the Rexall Health Services program, which was initiated late last year. “A lot of what we offer in-store we try to offer in our out-of-store service, too.
“Pharmacy is about more than just providing medications,” she says. “Patients are looking for a credible source of information, and many are turning to their pharmacist for this.”
Designed to provide what Rexall executives describe as “unique and innovative programs to enhance health care benefits” for Canadian businesses and their employees, Rexall Health Services’ primary goal is to help to manage drug benefit costs.
The program — the first of its kind in Canada — works with employers’ drug benefit plans to help maximize value to employees and provide cost savings for the business.
In addition, those enrolled in the plan have access to a variety of other programs, including the Rexall Network discount card, which provides savings on more than 1,000 store-brand products.
The Rexall Network, the executives behind it say, grew out of a trend that had been brewing in the United States for a few years and is only now making its way into Canadian health care.
“Employees want to take more control of their health care expenditures, as much as they can,” says Rexall senior vice president of pharmacy services Jim Beaumariage.
“Ultimately, the employees pay for all health care, so they need to be more proactive in managing those costs and want more say in what is going on.”
Beaumariage stresses that Rexall is not looking to replace the pharmacy benefit management (PBM) system that currently oversees Canadian workers’ prescription benefits. Rather, he says, the Rexall Network acts as an adjunct to the PBM. As it focuses on keeping employee health care costs down through such factors as drug compliance programs and generic substitutions, the program should also drive down costs for employers and the PBMs, Rexall executives say.
“We’re looking at the business more like a U.S. PBM,” explains Beaumariage, who spent several years with the Connecticut-based drug chain Familymeds Group Inc. before joining Rexall two years ago. “We are focusing on what drives expenses for employers.”
As of earlier this month, about a dozen companies with health plans that cover 150,000 people had joined the Rexall Network.
Beaumariage adds that he expects that number to rise to 250,000 by January and to half a million by June.
“I think we have enough flexibility in our offering that we can help every employer in Canada in some way,” he remarks.
One employer that has joined the network is the Ontario Teachers Insurance Plan, a not-for-profit health and wellness trust with 112,000 members across the province.
“We use Rexall in a number of different ways,” says president of group insurance services Vic Medland.
“I’m really excited about where this program will go in the years ahead, and I believe the program’s mail-order solution has great potential to bring savings to our plan and other insurance plans in Canada.”
The Ontario Teachers Insurance Plan is among a handful of the companies in the Rexall Network that has the drug chain’s pharmacists do on-site visits.
Once a year, the plan has what it calls Healthy Work Week, with pharmacists conducting blood pressure screenings and a variety of wellness awareness programs for plan members.
Last year, the effort paid immediate benefits when three plan members’ blood pressure tests revealed the need for immediate medical attention, improving these patients’ lives and saving the plan additional health care expenditures down the road.
Eventually, Beaumariage says, Rexall hopes to put permanent pharmacies at employers’ work sites to give the companies’ employees easy access to the Rexall Network’s services.