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Lindholz, Anderson highlight industry’s accomplishments, opportunities at virtual NACDS Total Store Expo

NACDS' virtual Total Store Expo began Monday with a focus on all that pharmacies have accomplished amid COVID, as well as future challenges and opportunities.

The National Association of Chain Drug Stores’ virtual Total Store Expo kicked off Monday with a discussion from the organization’s leadership about the challenges and accomplishments of retail pharmacy and suppliers throughout the pandemic, as well as the myriad opportunities for the industry to collaborate and improve patients' health.

NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson began the two-day event's first Business Program with a focus on NACDS members' responses over the years to meet numerous challenges — from H1N1 and HIV to natural disaster recovery and opioid abuse, as well as efforts to pioneer e-prescribing and innovate retail convenience around online and mobile shopping. They then had to tackle a pandemic. 

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“In 2020, COVID turned everything on its head. ... That became the focus and you answered the call,” he said. “Pharmacies stayed open, met health and wellness needs, ramped up COVID testing, protected against flu, and helped to reach the arms and minds with COVID vaccinations. At the same time, suppliers ramped up, moved product, got creative, gave us continuity, and collaborated with retailers to serve consumers and communities. “I’m here to  tell you pharmacies are nailing it and you and your teams are proven heroes.”

[Read more: Moody’s co-founder shares economic outlook at virtual NACDS Total Store Expo]

Anderson also noted the array of federal- and state-level policies that NACDS helped to shape and everything that NACDS members did to serve the public, including securing government action for pharmacy teams to test and vaccinate for COVID, winning emergency authority in 43 states to serve patients, collaborating with CDC on the vaccine rollout, building public consensus, collaborating with national and state associations, and focusing on vaccine advocacy. 

Anderson highlighted the ways that NACDS kept the industry connected with such virtual events as NACDS LIVE. NACDS LIVE discussions centered on myriad topics – including digital acceleration; artificial intelligence; health and wellness trends; shopper insights and more.

He also emphasized the recent “Power of A Gold Award” presented to NACDS by the American Society of Association Executives as a credit to the NACDS membership’s commitment to maximizing the response to the pandemic.

[Read more: NACDS applauds Biden Administration’s move allowing pharmacy techs, interns to administer flu vaccine]

“We have achieved an inspiration, not a destination,” Anderson said. “NACDS is committed to nothing short of thinking about how we fight for this industry and consumers. Beyond COVID, are fair pharmacy reimbursement and extending pharmacies' authority to serve the public. 

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Coleen Lindholz, president of Kroger Health and NACDS chair acknowledged that there are challenges ahead, but emphasized the extent to which pharmacies have become the nation’s go-to health destinations. 

“NACDS members’ stores are the front doors of healthcare in this country [and] NACDS supplier members are key partners in that role,” Lindholz said. “I cannot think of much that is more exciting than working together on one of the greatest health and wellness transformations of our time. Together, we are bringing healthcare to the people, rather than forcing people to go to healthcare.”

Noting that Kroger's aspiration is, 'changing the way health care is delivered in the U.S.,' Lindholz said this new era is one that features an interdisciplinary team approach to health and wellness.

[Read more: NACDS, community leaders look to increase COVID vaccination rates]

“There’s a need for opportunity and movement for healthcare providers to work collaboratively,” she said. ”It’s pharmacists, nurse practitioners, and dietitians; it’s about empowering patients to access the right healthcare professional at the right time on their healthcare journey."


She added, “NACDS members are playing a tremendous role in this — and this is the reason for genuine enthusiasm about where we are going as an industry.”

Lindholz asked members to consider their role in the overall industry ecosystem.

“Whether you are involved in the supply chain, technology, planning stores of the future, over-the-counter medications, beauty, food – what is your role in the revolution?” she said. “What is your role in a world where NACDS chain members are recognized even more extensively as health and wellness destinations – as the face of neighborhood healthcare? What is your role as an employer? How can we collaborate? It’s going to take all of us.”

[Watch DSN: Colleen Lindholz discusses Kroger Health’s strategy to simplify health care]

As a result of the pandemic, Lindholz said we’ve also seen the importance of meeting consumers where they are on their health care journey.

"What does vaccine hesitancy tell us? As an industry, we’ve been focused on medication nonadherence for many years. These are complex issues, and one common factor is a personal approach. Connecting with patients is the key.”

NACDS noted that the Business Program was supported by Scott Emerson and the Emerson Group. 

Tuesday's Business Program will feature Wendy Liebmann, CEO and Chief Shopper, WSL Strategic Retail; Doug Long, Vice President, Industry Relations, IQVIA; and Scott Biggs, Director, Supplier Services, IQVIA. 

The organization this year is rolling out the NACDS Market Exchange, a retailer-friendly platform that allows suppliers to keep retailers informed about new trends and innovations in the industry. The new digital tool launched in June and opened to retailers in July.

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