The COVID-19 pandemic ushered in a heightened sense of awareness among consumers about the importance of taking better care of their health. Grocers with pharmacies are responding to customers’ new consciousness by investing in and expanding their pharmacies’ services to become health destinations.
In fact, The Food Marketing Institute’s 2021 Report on Retailer Contributions to Health and Well-being shows that grocery stores have indeed made significant investments to expand their role as community destinations for health and well-being. Eighty-four percent of respondents said their company has an established health and well-being strategy, and 84% of retailers report their company offers health and well-being activities for both employees and customers, an increase from 49% in 2019.
Moreover, the report found that 54% of pharmacists, dietitians and other healthcare practitioners collaborate to enhance and develop new health and well-being programs for food retailers — up from 42% in 2019. “The role of the retail pharmacist and retail registered dietitian has never been more important,” said Krystal Register, director of health and well-being at FMI.
DSN asked several supermarket pharmacy executives to weigh in on the state of their supermarket pharmacy business. Their responses echo Register’s sentiments and shed light on the opportunities that exist for supermarket pharmacies and their pharmacists in the future.
Carmouche: We often say zip code is more important than your genetic code when it comes to health. Many of the underserved communities we serve don’t have adequate access to health care, but they do have a Walmart pharmacy staffed by a pharmacist or pharmacy technician who understands local health needs. With nearly 4,000 of Walmart locations located within one or more of HRSA’s designated Medically Underserved Areas, there is an opportunity for us to make a real impact. We do this through offering affordable, fresh groceries and wellness items, plus in-store wellness days where our pharmacists administer health screenings (4.4 million to date) and vaccinations. Walmart Health offers primary care and educational preventive healthcare resources based on local health needs. An example is the HabitNu diabetes management program in Chicago.
Some of our longest-standing Walmart Health locations are starting to see a shift from primary care visits to chronic condition management as patients embrace preventive care.
Gajial: Our commitment is to make COVID-19 testing and vaccinations convenient and accessible in the many neighborhoods we serve. Recently, that’s meant offering second-round booster doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. Customers with Medicare Part B coverage, including those enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, are now able to get free COVID-19 rapid tests at our pharmacies. Through our partnership with Cue Health, launched this spring, we now offer highly accurate, convenient and fast molecular COVID-19 tests, with lab-quality results delivered in 20 minutes. In many cities we have pharmacy delivery for customers who want to get their medications without leaving their home.
Thornell: One program we hope to reinvigorate is our Health Screening and Community Event programs. At these events, we offer blood pressure screenings, blood glucose and cholesterol, where permitted by state regulations, and are currently exploring A1C offerings for patients. We have formed a strong partnership with Stop & Shop’s newly formed dietitian team, and moving forward, our strategy includes unified education and recommendations from our health experts.