Naples, Fla. – The value of collaboration through the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) was on display today, as the NACDS Regional Chain Conference explored business-to-business partnerships and a public policy agenda that benefits patients and consumers.
In his opening remarks at the Opening General Session, Conference Chairman Tim Weber, RPh, vice president, pharmacy of Fruth Pharmacy, described the benefits of the Conference for business innovation.
“While our pharmacists deliver care via immunizations, medication therapy management, and counseling, Fruth continually looks to our chain and vendor partners for ways to innovate and collaborate to improve the care and services we provide,” Weber said.
“At Fruth, these opportunities to share, listen, discuss and collaborate have resulted in an improved and highly productive intern program, improved loyalty program offerings, and development of a plan to greatly enhance patient care and star rating performance. Our front-end teams work tirelessly with our vendor partners to bring value, contests and products to our customers.”
Weber described the value to suppliers as well, saying “We as regional chains can provide opportunities for our vendor partners to pilot new products and services, share and collaborate on new ideas and services, innovate the practice of pharmacy and the drug store experience, and adapt to change.”
NACDS Chairman of the Board John Standley, chairman and chief executive officer of Rite Aid Corporation, validated the importance of NACDS meetings, saying “This is why executives take the time to participate in NACDS meetings like this one. These meetings aren’t ivory-tower discussions. They are mission-focused and informative.”
Standley described NACDS’ priorities in public policy and member services as an “Access Agenda,” with the first of three categories involving “protecting patient access to our pharmacies and to quality pharmaceutical care” in programs including Medicaid, Medicare and TRICARE.
“NACDS is working actively to maintain the current level of care we provide through our traditional drug dispensing business, and we should be. It’s such a key part of our business and such an important benefit to the health of our patients,” he said.
Standley described the second category as “expanding the access our patients have to quality healthcare,” such as through the Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act that was introduced in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives last week.
“The fact is, all of us are focused on creating new models that improve access to needed healthcare services,” he explained. “It could involve clinics, health coaching or any number of things. So as this occurs, NACDS is engaging members of Congress to champion legislation that will help make these new care models financially viable and set the stage for even greater advances in patient care.”
Standley described the third aspect of the “Access Agenda” as NACDS’ meetings and conferences, and other opportunities for retailer-supplier partnerships in pharmacy and front-end initiatives.
“I have really tried to make it a priority as chairman to articulate how much it means for all of us to meet in these venues. We are providing access to each other, and creating opportunities to improve our collaboration and creativity, share our ideas, and make the most of our relationships – ultimately for the good of the people we serve,” he said.
By the time Weber and Standley spoke on Monday, Conference attendees already were in the full swing of collaboration, as indicated by Sunday’s popular and insightful “Meet the Retailer” sessions. Representatives of The Bartell Drug Company; Fruth Pharmacy; Kinney Drugs, Inc.; and Thrifty White Pharmacy presented to NACDS Associate members about the direction of their companies, and opportunities to pursue enhanced partnerships.
In his remarks at the Opening General Session, NACDS President and CEO Steven C. Anderson, IOM, CAE described the progress that has been achieved by the industry’s united efforts to tell the story of pharmacies, and the continued importance of this priority given the state of the operating environment at the federal and state levels of government.
“We live in a political and public policy environment that is highly volatile,” Anderson said, in describing the results of the 2014 elections. “And just because one election is over, it doesn’t mean the next one isn’t right there on the horizon. The 2016 election is right there upon us.”
Anderson credited the motivation of NACDS members to assume a more proactive footing in leading policymakers to a greater understanding of pharmacy patient care.
“You wanted to vastly improve how lawmakers and the general public perceived the value of pharmacy. When we first launched our Pharmacies. The face of neighborhood healthcare. campaign, our audiences did not understand that pharmacies are a significant part of healthcare delivery. Because of the leadership of the NACDS Board of Directors and all of you in this room, together we changed the paradigm of how pharmacies are viewed on Capitol Hill,” he said.
Anderson described a steady stream of examples that the awareness of pharmacy’s value continues to increase, including a January 2015 paper published by the National Governors Association, a May 2014 report by Avalere, and a study – named the “Pennsylvania Project” – published in Health Affairs in August 2014. Anderson also noted the broad and bipartisan cosponsorship of pro-patient and pro-pharmacy legislation as an example of pharmacy’s progress.
“We are finally getting traction, and that is a direct result of what you do in your pharmacies every day for the good of the American people,” Anderson said, while giving special mention to NACDS members’ hosting of Congressional pharmacy tours to demonstrate first-hand the importance of pharmacy services. “Every time members of Congress tour a pharmacy, they understand better how you make their constituents healthier, and they want to be supportive.”
“Now that we have this momentum we need to keep building it,” Anderson said. “We have been very clear about the fact that NACDS is the membership, and it is the engagement of NACDS members that makes the difference. Now that we are making such progress, members want to be even more involved, because we can see the strength that flows from unity of purpose.”
Anderson’s remarks prefaced a panel discussion about the public policy environment, and opportunities to defend and advance pharmacy in the current landscape. Panelists included Robert G. Egeland, RPh, vice president, pharmacy of Hy-Vee, Inc.; John J. Fegan, vice president, pharmacy of Bi Lo – Winn Dixie; and Timothy Weippert, RPh, executive vice president of pharmacy of Thrifty White Pharmacy. The panel was moderated by Carol Kelly, NACDS’ senior vice president, government affairs and public policy.
The Conference program continues through Tuesday evening, with a timely agenda of Interactive Idea Exchange sessions that fuel discussion on specific issues, as well as General Sessions on topics of interest to all attendees. Pharmacy and front-end topics that are being explored at the Conference include quality-based pharmacy payments; medication synchronization; travel health opportunities for community pharmacies; pharmaceutical trends; Drug Enforcement Administration compliance; mobile health apps; shopper trends; point-of-care testing in pharmacies; labor and employment law; federal and state government affairs issues; and opinion-research findings that shape public policy communications.
The Conference also is proving effective to bring together chains, pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributor partners to understand compliance and collaboration strategies related to the new prescription drug supply chain law, the drug-tracing aspects of which come into force on July 1.
Tuesday afternoon at the Conference will feature an ambitious agenda of one-to-one business conferences between NACDS Chain and Associate members.