NACDS kicks off 2023 Regional Chain Conference

In its 90th year, NACDS remains focused on the ever-evolving goal of leading the future of an industry dedicated to advancing health and wellness for all Americans.
Sandra Levy
Senior Editor
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Leading the future of an industry dedicated to advancing health and wellness for all Americans is the central theme of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores' 2023 Regional Chain Conference, taking place from Jan. 29 to 31, in Orlando, Fla.

The event, which consisted of meetings and conferences, was the first opportunity to mark the organization’s 90th Anniversary.

Justin Heiser, 2023 NACDS Regional Chain Conference chair, and chief operating officer of Thrifty White Pharmacy, opened the event by urging attendees that the “time is now” to redefine the future of the pharmacy profession:

“There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic created an opportunity for pharmacists to deliver more hands-on care, paving the way for the profession to redefine its role and how we serve patients. The question is: As an industry, are we taking full advantage of this opportunity?” Heiser said.

Heiser went on to describe his own company’s endeavor to reimagine the pharmacy so that patients have better access to clinical care services at Thrifty White.

“Our vision with building out all of this [pharmacy] infrastructure is to give our teams the confidence and the tools needed to manage chronic conditions and improve outcomes for patients. Ultimately, we are positioning ourselves to be a partner to payers and providers who are taking on risk for the lives they are managing,” he said.

[Read more: NACDS report highlights role local pharmacies, pharmacists play in patient-centered services]

Brian Nightengale, NACDS chair, and president of Good Neighbor Pharmacy, and NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson began their remarks by reflecting on the 90th Anniversary of NACDS — and how it coincides with the industry’s bold future.

Nightengale remarked, “As we celebrate NACDS’ 90th anniversary, I think it is appropriate to connect the dots a bit between the past, the present and the future. While I was not in that ballroom back in 1933 [when NACDS was created], I can imagine that those in the room had a mindset of unification and transformation — which, from what I understand, required what they called the ‘Triumph of Cooperation.’

“ … They were imagining and inventing the concept of how their pharmacies could expand to better serve their communities well into the future … [Now] we are in the midst of returning to that mindset of imagining and inventing the next future of retail pharmacy.”

Anderson declared to NACDS-member suppliers and retailers: “Any anniversary is a great time for reflection and anticipation. Yet this anniversary is even more special. It is a 90th Anniversary after you saved America. It is a 90th Anniversary when the industry is back together again – in-person. And that is important, because this is a 90th Anniversary at a time of unique disruption and acceleration. No doubt: It is time to return, reimagine, and reinvent.”

[Read more: NACDS, Johns Hopkins report: Pharmacies play a vital role in achieving health equity]

Nightengale also emphasized NACDS’ priorities for the year, including: pursuing solutions to help ensure fair and adequate pharmacy reimbursement, with a major focus on pharmacy benefit manager reform; maintaining patients’ pharmacy access and health equity through “PREP Act” policies that have proven effective; further empowering the industry to leverage the total store to meet the needs of the total person; and fostering collaboration between pharmacies and suppliers in alternative ways to reach health and wellness consumers.

“These priorities add up to the acknowledgment that together, we constitute the most accessible, most trusted, and most affordable healthcare destination in America. We seek an expanded role within our country’s health and wellness ecosystem. And together, we are the catalyst to make that happen,” Nightengale said.

Anderson laid out NACDS’ achievements in 2022 on behalf of patients — a direct reflection of hard work of NACDS members and collaboration with state and national allies. He described:

  • 45 state policies enhancing services that patients can receive from pharmacists;
  • 20 state policies enhancing the role of pharmacy technicians;
  • Continued momentum on PBM reform since a key U.S. Supreme Court decision – which has made possible 100 new state laws in two years’ time;
  • Additional aspects of PBM reform and fairer reimbursement to pharmacies – which have been achieved in several states;
  • A transparency rule for DIR fees – the fees by payers that harm patients and pharmacies – and added momentum to continue the push for comprehensive DIR fee reform; and
  • The inclusion in larger legislation of a measure to help confront organized retail crime – as well as the inclusion of other NACDS-backed provisions.

Anderson also previewed what is to come as the industry rolls into this special 90th Anniversary year.

He described how the Association is “creating change” and taking an “all-branches and all-levels approach” to PBM reform. He also emphasized the importance of the “NACDS 2023” initiative, which focuses on the future of NACDS and of the industry and which reflects NACDS members’ reimagination and reinvention of health and wellness.

“Simply put: NACDS 2023 is about NACDS’ role in advancing the use of the whole store to care for the whole person,” Anderson said.

Nightengale focused on the importance of member engagement through NACDS — at every level: “There is no doubt: the NACDS board of directors, [NACDS] committees and Retail Advisory Board provide tremendous leadership, and there is a role for every individual to engage.”

The NACDS Retail Advisory Board — comprised of retailers and suppliers — makes recommendations to the NACDS board of directors on front-end issues and programming.

He continued with emphasis on the power and influence of the NACDS RxIMPACT grassroots program, saying: “NACDS members have a presence in every single state and Congressional District. Every one. Few associations can say that. And with that comes a big responsibility for both the Association and members and supporters … In my opinion, there is no better advocacy effort than the NACDS RxIMPACT program. At any point in time, NACDS can reach more than 15,000 advocates to contact their elected officials.”

[Read more: NACDS receives ASAE's 2021 Power of A Gold award]

Last year alone, NACDS RxIMPACT grew its ranks by about 40%, and NACDS member pharmacies hosted nearly 90 Congressional pharmacy tours. On March 1, NACDS members and stakeholders will convene in Washington, D.C., to collaborate more on the topics of vital importance to the industry and consumers it serves.

Nightengale and Anderson closed with a nod to the past and a focus on the future:

Nightengale said, “It really is amazing to think that more than 90 years ago people started talking about the need to band together through NACDS so they could accomplish more … Today, we are committed to creating a new era of health and wellness for the American consumer; to reimagining our expanded role as the ‘face of neighborhood health and wellness;’ and to re-inventing how we do business and how we serve our communities.”

Anderson said, “We are going to redefine – yet again – what it means to come together as an association to leverage an amazing industry for a great nation.”

A principal feature of the 2023 Conference is the productive, One-to-One Business Conferences – a popular aspect of the schedule that fosters collaboration among NACDS chain and associate members and which sets the standard for NACDS meetings and conferences.

The conference continued Tuesday with more presentations from top speakers on the most timely issues affecting the industry and the patients and consumers it serves.

A key feature of Tuesday’s programming was the One-to-One Business Conferences – a highly popular aspect of the schedule that fosters collaboration among NACDS chain and associate members and which sets the standard for NACDS meetings and conferences.

Anderson said, “The NACDS Regional Chain Conference continues to be the place for idea-sharing and collaboration on topics that impact the whole store and the whole person. As we look to the future of the Association and of the industry, we thank the NACDS membership for their tremendous engagement and enthusiasm. NACDS looks forward to the entire 2023 calendar of NACDS events during NACDS’ special 90th-anniversary celebration.”

2023 Conference speakers included:

Purva Rawal, chief strategy officer, CMS Innovation Center, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, discussed the importance of integrating more healthcare providers into value-based arrangements to enhance patient’s access to health and wellness services;

Steven Chen, associate dean for clinical affairs, William A. and Josephine A. Heeres chair in Community Pharmacy and professor of Clinical Pharmacy, University of Southern California School of Pharmacy, talked about the evolving healthcare ecosystem and practical tips to implement and expand innovative payment models in order to improve patient outcomes;

Scott Biggs, director of supplier services at IQVIA, and Doug Long, vice president of industry relations at IQVIA, who shared the most up-to-date industry data on pharmaceutical trends, issues and forecasts for 2023 and beyond;

Greg Black, co-founder and partner, Waypoint Strategies; Emily Katz, managing director, Healthcare Practice chair, Prime Policy Group; and Ken Nahigian, executive vice president, policy & communications, Nahigian Strategies — who took attendees inside the Association’s “war room” to hear about the current state of play on pro-patient, pro-pharmacy priorities;

Anthony Pudlo, executive director of the Tennessee Pharmacists Association, offered a state perspective on key pharmacy issues;

Brian Owens, senior vice president, of commerce strategy and inclusive commerce at VMLY&R COMMERCE, described social media’s impact on pharmacy and health commerce shopping;

Todd Huseby, partner, Americas Consumer Healthcare Lead, Kearney, shared the most important topics companies in the industry are discussing — and how these topics will frame industry dialogue moving forward; and

Deborah Kelly, partner, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, who provided updates on changes in the 2022 workplace as employers and employees adapt to life in year three of COVID-19, and more.

Huseby and Owens also led a roundtable discussion on the interests, concerns and aspirations of today's and tomorrow's consumer. In addition, NACDS staff briefed attendees on priority federal and state issues in 2023 amid shifting political sands.