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NACDS regional chain conference highlights policy battles, accelerated innovation

The 2024 Conference—“Within Reach”—takes place Feb. 11 to 13 in Bonita Springs, Fla., and is the kick-off to NACDS meetings and conferences this year.
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Jackie Morse

At the Opening General Session of the 2024 National Association of Chain Drug Stores Regional Chain Conference, a central message rang clear—the organization is committed to winning on pivotal issues and charting the course for innovation that advances pharmacy benefiting all Americans.

Jackie Morse, 2024 NACDS Regional Chain Conference chair and group vice president of pharmacy for Meijer opened the event by illustrating the retailer’s role as the face of neighborhood health and wellness for the communities it serves across six states.

“Meijer’s commitment to community and to corporate citizenship comes to life every day in the pharmacy. Food insecurity is one of Meijer’s most substantial giving pillars. Pharmacists are not only medication experts, but they are also so much more. We are excited to see how pharmacists’ role in total health and wellness transforms in the coming years,” said Morse. 

She continued with an emphasis on policy priorities by stating, “In addition to local communities and giving pillars, Meijer is passionate about advocacy—and NACDS’ overall missions. We must continue to galvanize the membership around NACDS’ top policy priorities, for the betterment of patient care and for our customers.”

[Read more: Healthcare industry celebrates, honors NACDS’ 90th anniversary, retail pharmacies]

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Mike Wysong

NACDS chair Mike Wysong, CEO of CARE Pharmacies, alongside the organization’s president and CEO Steve Anderson also spoke. Their respective remarks focused on the importance of defending pharmacies and patients and innovating for the future.

Wysong issued a challenge to attendees, saying: “Remember who you are. Remember why you do what you do. And don’t forget to tell your story.”

Reflecting on takeaways from recent NACDS meetings and conferences, Wysong focused on the importance of identity and innovation.

He noted that external observers have described the organization as having a clear identity—which reflects a knowledge of an organization’s responsibility and faithfulness. Regarding “innovation,” he observed that this characteristic today must accompany other core attributes—including honor, courage and service.

Wysong went on to describe his visits in recent weeks to NACDS-member regional chains including Discount Drug Mart, Publix and Lewis Drug—and how each proved to be an innovator with an identity.

"Innovation is a piece of art and a core component of the pharmacy business. These NACDS member companies are creating new models of care, and they are defining a comprehensive approach to serving their customers well,” Wysong said.

Wysong also lauded Bob Narveson, chair of Thrifty White, who is a past chair and current board member, for his remarks at last December’s celebration of NACDS’ 90th Anniversary. He reflected on Narveson’s challenge that attendees remember what they are fighting for, and Narveson’s compelling use of storytelling to convey the industry’s passion and effectiveness.

With a nod to Jim Collins, author of Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … and Others Don’t, Anderson remarked how Collins’ principle of the flywheel represents well the industry’s ongoing work on behalf of Americans. The principle emphasizes the importance of applying continued force to generate the momentum necessary for results.

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

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Steve Anderson

Anderson explained how another principle of Jim Collins—the business strategy of “preserving the core and stimulating progress”—can describe the opportunities, and the threats, facing the industry today. Specifically, NACDS’ work to preserve the core of pharmacy means protecting pharmacies, and Americans from PBM tactics.

Anderson went on to speak of the progress at the state level, “NACDS made our mark in many states—arm-in-arm with state partners. Over three years, we’ve had more than 130 state PBM reform bills enacted,” he said. 

In addition, Anderson also described the push for PBM reform at the federal level, urging attendees to write to Congress to emphasize the importance of completing work on vital reforms that already have advanced through bipartisan work in this Congress.

On NACDS’ work to “stimulate progress,” he talked about the association’s focus on health and wellness innovation: “Even as we fight for pharmacy’s future, we are helping to create it: fulfilling pharmacy’s potential as a ‘one stop’ for America’s health and wellness needs. The ‘total store for the total person.’ I want to thank the 48 Strategic Partners here—the suppliers. You are here—because you understand what NACDS is all about. You are right at the core of NACDS as we build this future,” Anderson said.

Of note, Anderson talked about NACDS’ collaborative work with leading health organizations through Nourish My Health, a national public health education campaign highlighting the connection between food and health. On this and other future-focused projects, he said, “NACDS’ vision for the future of retail health includes sophisticated approaches. It is integrating pharmacy into value-based care. It is pharmacy data interoperability – which empowers payment for services. It is a federal bill (the Equitable Community Access to Pharmacist Services Act -  H.R. 1770/S. 2477) to create a payment stream so seniors in Medicare can access pharmacy services. And it is enhancing pharmacists’ scope of practice in the states.”

A principal feature of the 2024 Conference is the productive, One-to-One Business Conferences—a popular aspect of the schedule that fosters collaboration among chain and associate members and sets the standard for meetings and conferences.

More information about the 2024 Conference program – with compelling speakers on topics relevant to the entire store—is available on the event’s website.

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