On progress and the death of summer vacation

9/14/2009

I remember when summertime meant vacation. That ended a long time ago.

My theory on the death of The Great American Summer Vacation revolves around the evolution of technology and communication. I believe it started with one guy—a real big shot with an extraordinary amount of influence and purchasing responsibility. Anyway, they didn’t have a summer dress code back then; everybody wore wool suits, hats and ties—even to go jogging. So one hot summer day, this guy decides he needs a break and tells his secretary he is heading to the lake for a couple of weeks. Back then, there was no phone at the lake house, and so there was nowhere to forward his calls.

He liked it so much he did it every year at the same time.

It didn’t take long before all of the vendors who used to call on this big shot figured out what was going on, and realizing they could do no business while he was away, they, too, decided to take off for a couple of weeks. They headed off with their families to their beachside bungalows and their country cottages. And because nobody could reach anybody, everybody had a great time. They decided to call it summer vacation. I remember seeing the pictures. It looked great; everybody seemed really happy.

Then some “genius” had to come along and invent cell phones and the Internet, and ruined everything. Soon you could get in touch with anyone, anytime, any place. At least, that’s one way of looking at it. Some people would call that progress.

Our copy desk and the reporters here at The Drug Store News Group have their own theories on the death of summer vacation. As the editor of the group, they blame me. Luckily, I can share the blame with group publisher John Kenlon and associate publisher Wayne Bennett; between the three of us, we have figured out a few ways to ruin their summer vacations.

At least, that’s one way of looking at it. We call it progress.

To be sure, this has been a busy summer for The Drug Store News Group, and given the state of the economy and the overarching trend in publishing, we are all very happy for it. At a time when magazines and newspapers all over America are closing down, The Drug Store News Group continues to grow. Ten years ago, the group consisted of Drug Store News and a fledgling Web site, which we began updating daily in 1999. Today, it’s Drug Store News for the headquarters executive; it’s Pharmacy Practice for the pharmacist; it’s Pharmacy Tech News for the pharmacy technician; it’s Retail Clinician for the in-store nurse practitioner; it’s three Web sites and more than 10 electronic newsletters that come out daily and weekly to fill in the gaps between issues.

(On a somewhat related note, between drugstorenews.com and cedrugstorenews.com, The Drug Group had almost 1 million page views in the month of July.)

Of course, if you were to ask a member of our editorial team, there are very few gaps in our production schedule. And as of August, there were even fewer still.

Last month, at a special cocktail reception held at the Boston Westin, The Drug Store News Group, in conjunction with our partners at Armada Health Care, introduced our newest publication, Specialty Pharmacy magazine, at the NACDS Pharmacy and Technology Conference.

The mission of the magazine is to help bring a very widespread and somewhat fragmented marketplace—encompassing pharmacy providers, pharmaceutical companies, drug wholesalers, managed care companies and many other diverse constituents—a little closer together, and to help make a very complex business a little easier to understand. Specialty pharmacy and biotech is a big part of the future of pharmacy, and we believe it will be a big part of our future, as well. Including key executives from such companies as Walgreens, CVS Caremark, Walmart, Bioscrip, Aetna and others, the new magazine’s board of advisers is a virtual “who’s who” of the specialty pharmacy industry.

The next edition of Specialty Pharmacy is slated for January, and the plan is to make it a quarterly in 2010.

The week before the official launch of Specialty Pharmacy magazine, The Drug Store News Group was in Orlando, Fla., for its second annual Retail Clinician Education Congress, which we hosted Aug. 3 to Aug. 5, in conjunction with our partners at the Convenient Care Association. More than 500 people attended the conference, including nearly 400 nurse practitioners and physician assistants working in retail-based clinics.

And in the middle of it all, our team was working on the special section that appears in this issue on Walgreens and what it is doing to reinvent the business of pharmacy, leveraging a growing cadre of health services to improve patient outcomes and reduce costs for patients, payers and providers. We believe it offers a glimpse into the future of retail pharmacy. If you read carefully, you also may see a clear relationship between the things that Walgreens is trying to accomplish as a company and the way The Drug Store News Group has evolved its coverage as a news organization.

All in all, it has been a busy summer, with more than a few vacation plans dashed along the way. To be sure, our team has come up with more than a few ideas to ruin our own summer vacations. Of course, that’s one way of looking at it. We, however, call it progress.

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