Point-of-care testing? Check.
Medication therapy management? Check.
Chronic disease management programs? Check.
Specialty pharmacy? Check.
Primary care and clinic services? Check.
Staff dietitians and nutritionists? Check.
Collaboration with physicians and large health systems? Check.
COVID testing, COVID vaccines, and flu and pneumonia shots? Check.
This is a checklist for any retailer looking to make a mark with the pharmacy and something that supermarket operators need to understand is essential if they want to thrive in the competitive pharmacy business in the future.
The big questions are whether supermarkets are willing to dive completely into the pharmacy business and whether they can utilize their obvious advantage in food to maximize their potential in the category.
Getting Creative with Chronic Care
Helping people manage chronic conditions also has become a priority and capability of supermarket pharmacies.
Publix is a case in point. The supermarket pharmacy has created a closed-door specialty pharmacy offering, which Brous noted “ensures a smooth process for patients that are directly referred to the specialty pharmacy or for patients who present to one of our retail locations with a specialty prescription.”
Kroger is no stranger when it comes to managing chronic conditions. It is leveraging its dietitians and nutrition experts to help patients with obesity, heart disease and diabetes via Food as Medicine, a campaign it launched six years ago that offers medical nutrition therapy solutions.
“The Food as Medicine campaign is a way to address some of the issues around chronic disease. We believe we can do that from the lens of a grocer in conjunction with our Kroger Health business with the pharmacies and the clinics,” Watkins said. “As these patients are entering into either the clinic or pharmacy or health system, the pharmacist, nurse practitioners and PAs are aware of the service, and they can also direct patients to our dietitians for free telenutrition visits.”
As part of Kroger’s free virtual visits with a nutritionist, patients receive a meal plan, counseling and a road map to success in the form of a plan of action to take with them after their visit.
The ability to collaborate with physicians and health systems and forge partnerships is becoming a signature of many successful supermarket pharmacies.
Watkins pointed out that Kroger’s clinic business has been really focused on addressing gaps in care. “If we notice that we can impact care by beginning to treat things like diabetes and high blood pressure, we go ahead and initiate treatment and work with their primary care doctors.”
Kroger also has entered into a partnership with a health system in Little Rock in which it embedded one of its pharmacists with the clinical team. “We focused on not only medication reconciliation, but how could the pharmacist impact and drive care for their diabetic patients,” Watkins said. “As a certified diabetic educator, she was able to counsel them with food choices and diet, and since she was practicing within the store, she also interacted with these patients as they were shopping. The group was able to effectively drop A1C by two points, and they were successful in meeting one of their quality measurements. It shows that with a multi-collaborative approach with our pharmacists, you are able to improve the health of that one population.”
Publix also has made a huge commitment to improve patients’ health through collaborations with health systems.
Publix Pharmacy has joined forces with eight health systems in communities across Florida and one in South Carolina. With these relationships, Publix operates 14 pharmacies onsite at hospital campuses and supports 11 other hospitals from a nearby retail pharmacy. Publix Pharmacy offers services that include delivering discharge medications to a patient’s bedside prior to leaving the hospital and delivering medications to hospital employees. Publix also has teamed up with a Volunteers in Medicine Clinic location in Florida to manage a charity care program that supports the indigent population in Stuart, Fla.
“Continuum of care in the medical space is a top priority for Publix to align patients with the ability to transition back home from their hospital or outpatient stay,” Brous said. “We understand that we are an integral part of the healthcare team and can have a significant impact on reducing hospital readmissions.”
Through collaborations with three of its health system partners, Publix has launched 43 Walk-In Care clinics within its retail pharmacy space that allow patients to conduct a virtual visit with a healthcare provider and pick up any prescribed medications directly after their visit.
To expand available services, Publix and BayCare recently piloted a phlebotomy offering at two Walk-In Care clinic locations. A phlebotomist is set up onsite, and patients can schedule an appointment online or in store.