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NCPA Digest: More than 22,000 pharmacists revolutionizing health service delivery


NEW ORLEANS – There are more than 22,160 independent community pharmacies who are a critical prescription drug access point for patients, particularly in underserved areas  - 82% of independent community pharmacies serve population areas of 50,000 or less - the National Community Pharmacists Association reported Tuesday, citing the just-published 2016 NCPA Digest sponsored by Cardinal Health.

“Our members are very excited,” Douglas Hoey, NCPA CEO, told Drug Store News regarding the vibe emanating from the New Orleans show. “They’re energized; there’s a feeling of optimism [that’s] very solution oriented,” he said. And for good reason. In addition to filling prescriptions many pharmacists are providing enhanced services. According to the Digest, 81% of pharmacists offer medication therapy management; 67% provide immunizations; 61% furnish durable medical goods; and 57% perform blood pressure monitoring.

“Independent community pharmacies continue to be a trusted source for prescription medication and expert counseling, according to the newest NCPA Digest,” Hoey said. “In towns and cities across America, independent community pharmacies treat patients like family, adapt to further promote safe and effective medication use and are active local philanthropists.”

Independent pharmacists do more than provide progressive care for their patient base, they are pro-actively participating in the community as well. According to Steve Lawrence, SVP retail independent sales at Cardinal Health, nearly 70% of all community pharmacy owners donated to at least five local organizations in 2015.

“While independent community pharmacies remain a significant part of the retail pharmacy marketplace, both decreasing prescription volume and declining prescription drug reimbursement are warning signs to pharmacy owners,” Hoey added. According to the Digest, annualized prescription volume dropped 1.7% to 60,493, likely due in part to 90-day refill requirements and exclusionary pharmacy network arrangements.

“Overall sales revenue was up slightly,” Hoey said. “The number of prescriptions [filled] is down slightly and … the margins are down significantly,” he added. “In response, many independent pharmacists are looking to diversify their revenue, looking for non-PBM influenced revenue,” Hoey said, “where they can use their business acumen.”

In addition to enhanced services, independents are more and more pooling their resources as part of local networks to extend clinical services and employing tools that drive efficiencies across their business, whether its tools to enhance pharmacy workflow, supply chain or front-end performance.

To help herald these opportunities, NCPA has identified a range of options, including many independent pharmacists are already pursuing. In many cases NCPA has vetted these opportunities against member interst, Hoey noted, in addition to identifying best-practice partners with terms favorable to independent operations. 

“To weather these and other trends, community pharmacy owners should consider any and all options to diversify their revenue while continuing to focus on evaluating the economics of third party reimbursements," Hoey said.

Back to the on the show floor, Cardinal Health encouraged independents to embrace the role they are taking in revolutionizing the delivery of health care, inviting NCPA Annual attendees to tweet a photo at their booth with the hashtag: #iamrxrevolution. “Revolutions win the war,” Hoey said, hitting on a theme introduced in his NCPA Annual address. “Talking about enhanced services and the growing scale on the cost-of-goods side is part of a revolution,” he said. “It was a really great idea from Cardinal to have the opportunity to put on the white board some examples of [pharmacy] revolution and then to Tweet it out.”

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