Another important offering is multi-dose adherence packaging, dubbed Lewis Drug SmartPacks, which sort monthly medications into daily, easy-to-open packs. All SmartPacks are color-coded for the time of day when dosing is needed.
Addressing disparities in health is a major focus of regional pharmacy chains. Fruth is a frontrunner in this area.
“We have a single source discount card for uninsured individuals, offer reasonable cash pricing and offer solutions that put us on even footing with competitors,” Massey said. “We work with our communities, state and local government agencies to provide pharmacy services where needed.”
Fruth also provides services for organizations that serve indigent and homeless individuals. This includes delivering hepatitis C prescriptions to homeless shelters and working with shelters to provide vaccinations to patients who are “hard to capture in the retail space.”
“Both Fruth as a company and myself as both a healthcare provider and resident of West Virginia, recognize the need to serve the disproportionately affected
urban areas and our underserved rural communities,” Massey said. “The spot- light shone on this during the pandemic when pharmacy mobilized Boots on the Ground and took patient care directly to those who needed it most, and showed the true capabilities of local pharmacy.”
Massey said he is very concerned about “the growing shortage of pharmacists, the continued closure of local pharmacies due to inadequate reimbursement and recognition of services and allowing these communities to fall by the wayside with widening pharmacy deserts causing the already disproportionate care to move farther and farther away.”
Thrifty White is not sitting on the side- lines when addressing health disparities.
“One of the largest ways we are able to address disparities is by increasing access and availability of care,” said Faulks, noting that data shows that over 50% of patients don’t have a primary care provider.
“Thrifty White partners with our health plans to identify these members, then supports the health plan in closing gaps- in-care, gathering SDOH and HRA data and creating plans to better manage these patients,” Faulks said.
Giant also is no stranger to addressing health disparities.
“The Giant Co. pharmacy teams seek community partnerships to offer clinics and health screenings to underserved populations,” Shirley said.
Over the past two years, the company has partnered with state and federal governments to administer free COVID-19 vaccinations. It also extended its reach beyond its pharmacy walls to provide necessary services in a variety of locations, including schools, churches and even a local zoo to serve underserved populations.
Lastly, Giant offers Guiding Stars, a free, accessible tool for customers to make healthier grocery shopping decisions. “This easy, accessible program helps customers make healthier choices without needing an extensive knowledge of nutritional labels. All items receive a rating from one to three stars with three being the best nutritional value. Customers can see the rating on the shelf tag or product packaging,” Shirley said.
Hartig Drug also is responding with urgency to health disparities. “Most Hartig Drug pharmacies are located in rural communities,” Hartig said, adding that the retailer will continue to expand testing services and vaccination clinics to ensure rural communities have access to vaccines and testing as quickly as large urban centers.
Addressing health disparities also is on Lewis Drug’s radar.
“Lewis Drug has numerous locations where we are the only pharmacy in the entire county in these rural areas,” Ladwig said. “These locations serve as a health- care destination in small communities by providing immunizations, adherence packaging and counseling and medication therapy management.”
So what does the future hold for regional chain players?
Fruth plans to expand its health services to include a point-of-care (test-to-treat) pilot with flu/strep/COVID/rhinovirus.
Faulks said Thrifty White will continue to increase investments in its clinical operations, while Giant’s future entails continuing to explore opportunities to expand health services.
Hartig said the future includes piloting clinical programs through Medicare Demonstration projects, state-sponsored medication management reviews or other clinical programs where pharmacists can impact the community.
Ladwig said Lewis Drug is working on expanding its services to underserved communities by teaming up with a Community Health Clinic to provide medications through the Dispensary of Hope program.
Lastly, Justin Heiser, Thrifty White’s chief operating officer, offered his view of the future: “The ability of the pharmacist to help patients stay-in-home longer and receive appropriate care and interventions will be game-changing in the upcoming several years.”