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04/23/2021

Focus On: Inmar Intelligence remains an innovative partner for pharmacies, retailers

After 41 years in business, Inmar Intelligence continues to play a critical role in helping retailers handle complex transactions at scale.
Sandra Levy
Senior Editor
Sandra Levy profile picture

Take a virtual bow for a job well done.

While COVID-19 may have ruined the physical celebration of Inmar Intelligence’s 40th anniversary last April, it took nothing away from what the company has accomplished over these four decades, as well as where the data and tech-enabled services company is headed in the future.

In fact, only three months before its milestone anniversary, to reflect its evolution and growth, the Winston-Salem, N.C.-based company completed a rebranding effort, which culminated in transforming its name from Inmar to Inmar Intelligence.

Robert Zomok, Inmar Intelligence’s executive vice president and president of SupplyTech, reflected on the company’s origins in helping retailers handle complex transactions at scale. He said that early on, the focus was on promotions and returns, but the company’s healthcare focus came into play shortly after.     

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“For the last 30 years, we’ve provided services that help retail pharmacies. Today, over 80% of customers and pharmacy retailers have implemented at least one of our services,” he said. “The decision to add ‘Intelligence’ to our name was to represent our mantra to make our clients smarter and help them make decisions faster. The need and the drive for the name change had to be around data, how we use data and how we help our clients use data.”

To that end, one of the company’s premier products, Rx Return Services, helps retailers remove expired, nearly expired, damaged and recalled products. The data from returned units that come back to Inmar Intelligence is precious in that it can assist with financial transactions, satisfy recall requirements or help educate retailers about opportunities within their supply chain to reduce waste and improve availability of pharmaceuticals to patients.     

When it comes to helping retailers ensure the safety of patients in their communities and the environment, company officials said that no one has to look further than Inmar Drug Take Back service for unused or expired medicines.

“Inmar already has the needed infrastructure in place and was offering these services to pharmaceutical companies,” Zomok said. “It is a great opportunity for retail pharmacies to provide receptacles at no cost. We partnered with Google to make it easy for consumers to find our receptacles and used our media capabilities to educate consumers.”

Data Goes Beyond the Pharmacy
Inmar Intelligence’s financial management suite is yet another shining example of how retailers can reap benefits from data. “We help settle the transaction between the payer, the pharmacy and ultimately the patient,” Zomok said. “As we are settling that transaction, we collect a significant amount of data. We provide those insights, along with additional technology tools, back to our clients to help them work through a variety of audit, revenue and cost management processes.”

Inmar Intelligence also assists retailers with identifying and understanding the benefits of sending certain products to them for handling. “We’ll help them recover the value, settle the transaction and gather data. For example, if a health and beauty aid product is leaking from a package, they will see in our software that the item is hazardous, and they need to put it in a bin at their store, have it picked up and handled appropriately,” Zomok said. “When an item is scanned, whether it’s in the pharmacy or back of store, the pharmacy staff knows exactly what they can and can’t do with that item to reach the optimal disposition.”

If that were not enough, Inmar Intelligence’s compliance software also helps pharmacies comply with regulations, such as the Drug Supply Chain Security Act and USP <800>, a regulation that ensures safe handling of hazardous drugs to minimize the risk of exposure to healthcare personal, patients and the environment.

“We provide as many as those technology solutions to make sure the pharmacist has as much time with the patient and spends little time administering or making sure they are reducing risk,” Zomok said.

How Intelligent Solutions Help the Entire Retail Pharmacy Business
Coupon fraud, which costs the industry nearly $1 billion annually, is yet another big and costly problem that Inmar Intelligence is tackling for retailers. The company, which already was involved in coupon processing, took this service to the next level. “We can identify fraud and educate retailers and manufacturers on fraudulent practices, including how to avoid them, identify them and what to do about them,” he said. “In the last decade, we’ve also put in technology to help retailers and manufacturers identify fraud at point of sale.”

Beyond help with mitigation, InmarPay assists with the handling of the vast and growing array of payment services — including Venmo, credit cards and Bitcoin — while also keeping retailers’ payment gateway costs at bay.

“It’s all about efficiency and the ability to use one platform for all those services. You also can connect those platforms to help market to your customers and patients,” Zomok said. “Not only do you do that at a lower cost, but you do it at a higher value of services because as retailers use that gateway, they learn more about their consumers.”

Inmar Intelligence also is active on the COVID-19 vaccine front, offering services and technologies that help with the settlement process that has to occur for the number of vaccines that pharmacies receive and the reimbursement they receive for administering them. The company also can pull vaccines out of the supply chain when they may be unusable for a variety of reasons, or if eventually there is an oversupply. “We help with the financial reconciliation as well as a reverse logistics piece,” he said.     

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Envisioning the Future
Artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve patient safety and improve costs will be very much a part of Inmar Intelligence’s vocabulary, Zomok said.

“There’s tremendous opportunities to find data that tells a story, whether that story is how to improve a patient’s care or how to avoid an unsafe environment. For example, using AI to identify drug diversion in health systems,” he said. “We’re going to continue to invest in AI to help streamline processes and make better decisions at retail. We’re building AI into several of our existing products as we work to build on other products and technologies into our ecosystem. It makes things easier and safer for the patient and the retailer.”

Beyond AI, Inmar Intelligence said that with consumers opting for in-store shopping, curbside pickup and delivery services, it is increasing its focus on helping retailers meet their consumer or patient where they are on any given day. “We’re offering e-commerce platforms,” he said. “We can connect into delivery services, package drop-off and pickup services to increase the value of consumers walking through the doors.”

Supporting retailers as they expand into in-person health care also is on Inmar Intelligence’s radar. “As pharmacies continue to expand into clinic and medical services and chronic care, such as diabetes care, Inmar Intelligence plans to broaden its platforms that historically helped pharmacies handle pharmaceuticals to provide access and care for patients,” Zomok said.

Finally, as Inmar embarks on a new decade in business, Zomok said he envisions a connection between in-store shopping and a virtual experience. With the digital transformation accelerating, he also insisted that digital must be a significant component of retail pharmacy’s future strategy.

“It is not just an app, but a connected experience in store and virtually. Some healthcare services require physical locations and in-person experiences. In-store signage, e-commerce experiences and social media rhetoric all influence how the consumer feels about their retail pharmacy,” he said. “Partnering with trading partners to share data and empowering CPG brands to amplify the pharmacy’s omnichannel approach will yield results. Inmar offers retailers capabilities in all of these areas. Our future is very much about connecting our core tech-enabled services with this digital transformation to better serve our clients.” dsn

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