Pharmacy leaders gather to discuss reform, change

9/14/2009

Hundreds of chain pharmacy leaders gathered last month with pharmacy, healthcare, government and economics experts to explore solutions to the current healthcare crisis, expand pharmacy’s role in the nation’s health reform debate and look at new innovations in pharmacy practice, patient care and technology.

Drawing those leaders together: the 52nd annual Pharmacy and Technology Conference conducted by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores. The event kicked off Aug. 9 with addresses from conference chairman Dennis Wiesner, senior director of privacy, pharmacy and government affairs for Texas-based supermarket and pharmacy retailer H-E-B; and NACDS chairman Andy Giancamilli, CEO for Katz Group North America, including Snyders Drug Stores in the United States and Rexall Pharma Plus in Canada.

Capping the first-day session was a speech by former Senate majority leader Tom Daschle, who served for many years as a Democratic senator from North Dakota and currently advocates on behalf of overhauling the fractured U.S. healthcare system, expanding insurance coverage to all Americans and increasing the role pharmacy plays in patient care and a more cost-effective health system.

That role, Daschle said, can only become a reality when pharmacists gain increased recognition and reimbursement for their efforts in patient health and wellness, disease management and medication therapy management. And creating a “fair reimbursement” for the provision by pharmacists of MTM and other patient care and wellness services, he added, is essential to creating a more cost-effective health system and controlling health costs now spiraling out of control.

“You are providers of part of the answers to the healthcare crisis,” Daschle told his audience. The pharmacy profession, he added, is “at the table in part because you’re viewed as part of the solution.”

In a talk that cited President John F. Kennedy’s leadership in sending a man to the moon, Giancamilli exhorted chain pharmacy leaders at the event to be relentless in their pursuit of innovation in such areas as the delivery of health-and-wellness services to patients, and the adoption of health information technology and other technologies critical to a more cost-effective health network.

“So, today I ask you: what is your moon, and what are you doing to reach it?” Giancamilli urged listeners. “I ask this question out of a burning desire to see pharmacy achieve its full potential, for the ultimate benefit of the public. And I admit a little self interest as well, because a rising tide indeed lifts all boats.”

In addition, said the NACDS chairman, “there is another reason I want to speak about innovation. It is to deliver a strong message to Washington, D.C., and to the state capitals. The profession and the industry of pharmacy that I know is one that is all about innovation, and that should be empowered to help deliver the accessible, affordable, high-quality, patient-centric care that they are pursuing.”

“In my view, pharmacy, researchers, manufacturers and related industries have been in the improvement business since birth,” Giancamilli added. “And through healthy competition, appropriate collaboration and always a focus on making people’s lives better, this trajectory of improvement has given us transformational reform.”

The opening business session also included the first of a series of tributes to Len DeMino, former NACDS VP pharmacy affairs. DeMino, who remains a consultant with the organization, was honored with the UCB Leadership in Pharmacy Award in recognition of his two decades of service to NACDS, culminating a career in retail pharmacy that included a 33-year record of service to Peoples Drug Stores. UCB Inc., which sponsored the award, made a $10,000 contribution in DeMino’s name to the NACDS Foundation.

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