Industry Issues Summit: Health, Wellness and Tech Roundtable 2017

[audio mp3=""][/audio]Editor’s Note: The Drug Store News Industry Issues Summit gathered a record crowd in December at the New York Athletic Club in Manhattan to discuss the most important issues facing the industry today. Three roundtable discussions took place at the event, one regarding chronic care (which appeared in the February issue of DSN), the front-end panel (which appeared in the March issue of DSN), and this health, wellness and technology panel.

During this health, wellness and technology roundtable, several topics were discussed among the 13 panelists, primarily the largest health-and-wellness challenge that the seven retail panelists are facing, as well as current solutions the six technology suppliers are working on to make the industry even better.

Chris Dimos, McKesson: A technology device that is capable of diagnosing at least 13 different health conditions being sold at retail. Think about the role of technology in revolutionizing how we diagnose and assess health and wellness. The focus on wellness increases and provides an opportunity for us to be the solution center for the healthy and the destination for the sick.

I have an esteemed panel today; if you’re not up here, I don’t know what you did wrong. I’m just kidding…. It is a great panel, I think we’ve got some great questions and we’re going to explore three different areas. We’re going to identify big health-and-wellness challenges that are being addressed by the retailers today in the community pharmacy setting, hear what solutions are being developed to address those challenges. Check for alignment currently, and assess if there are unmet needs either from a retailer perspective or from a technology perspective.

So I want to start with Tim Weippert. This is my definition of a lightning round, so we should be done in 40 minutes — slow-moving storm (due to the size of the panel) —Tim would you briefly describe your primary responsibility and what you think is the largest health-and-wellness challenge that you and your company are addressing today?

Tim Weippert, Thrifty White Pharmacy: Good morning everyone. I’m Tim Weippert, chief operating officer and EVP pharmacy for Thrifty White Pharmacies. We’re a Midwest chain; 95 stores in the upper Midwest. My primary responsibilities are oversight of all store and pharmacy operations including retail, long-term care and central site operations that we operate today.

I think the largest challenge today for us is the word access. I’ll take access and very briefly here just say it is access to patients and access to data because they go hand in hand and it’s what we need to continue to be able to engage at the highest level with our patient’s day in and day out. As we move from fee-for-service models to high quality, value-based performance models, it is of utmost importance for us to maintain patient access and not allow others that are seeming to carve away at our access to patients and services that we’re providing by limiting the patient’s choices of access. Secondly, the data we need to have to work hand in hand with all the different continuums of care with providers and patients today is also of utmost importance so we can make our engagements with our patients at the highest level of outcomes and hopefully leading to reducing total overall cost of care today.

Kevin Hourican, CVS Health: Good morning everyone, my name is Kevin Hourican, I help lead the retail pharmacy business at CVS Health. Additionally, I help lead our supply chain organization, which is our 18 distribution centers and our inventory management group. I would submit that there is not one specific challenge, but a confluence of events that are creating a set of enormous challenges. As everyone in the panel would agree, we are dealing with significantly reduced reimbursement rates from payers at the same time that we are increasing the services that we are offering our patients. This reality is putting significant pressure upon our business model. At CVS health, we would like our pharmacists to be able to operate at the top of their license. However, there are many regulatory or financial pressures that prevent that from adequately happening. We are interested in partnering with the industry to reduce unproductive legislation and also create avenues for financial reimbursement for services that we know our pharmacists would be able to perform at a high level. Pharmacists operating at the top of their license will improve healthcare access and lower healthcare cost.

Dimos, McKesson: Great, thanks Kevin. My job is to ask hard questions. Jocelyn?

Jocelyn Konrad, Rite Aid: Good morning, everyone. My name is Jocelyn Konrad and I am responsible for pharmacy operations at Rite Aid, which includes clinical services, government affairs, business initiatives, pharmacy innovation and acquisition departments. Top of mind for me is to protect the profession of pharmacy and ensure that pharmacists are seen as a pivotal part of health care across the continuum. As pharmacists, especially in the retail establishment, we see patients 12- to 15-fold more than other healthcare providers and are not often valued as a participant in the healthcare solution and we can do so much for patients. So protecting the profession of pharmacy, allowing our pharmacists to provide the services and be financially compensated for those services because they are impacting the total healthcare continuum is probably the biggest thing. And by doing that, all of those other pillars fall into place.

Craig Norman, H-E-B: Good morning, my name is Craig Norman, I am SVP pharmacy for H-E-B. The biggest thing that we’re dealing with at H-E-B right now is adherence and compliance. We have a demographic with a high percentage of patients that are not extremely compliant. We have to do everything that we can as a pharmacy provider to educate and increase compliance so that we can keep them as patients for the long term. Additionally it’s how we are then judged from a star rating perspective and how those ratings then translate into the DIR [direct and indirect remuneration fees] that we’re seeing clawed back from us on a regular basis in our pharmacies, challenging our profitability and our ability to continue to grow our services, especially in areas of the greatest need.

Philecia Avery, Kroger: My name is Philecia Avery, I’m VP pharmacy for the Kroger Co. My responsibilities include all things retail, mail, central-fill, as well as we have Kroger Prescription Plans, which is a PBM, and then a host of other clinical services, as well as procurement and logistics for pharmacy. We’ve had quite a few pretty impressive answers and I think I would say, ‘Ditto, ditto, ditto,’ all the way down.

The other thing that I would actually add, though, is to just to take a step back, let’s define health and wellness first. If you ask all of us the definition of health and wellness, we probably have a little spin on that definition; imagine the difference that our customers have when they walk in. For them, health and wellness could be anything from just the services that we could provide, it could be the information that we provide. It also could be that they walk in looking for actual tangible products. You know, are you selling FitBits? Are you selling hardware? Health and wellness can be food; it could be mind, body and spirit. Do you have those certain services there as well? That is something that I actually think is a big challenge for our industry right now because I think it’s about 80% of Americans right now are thinking about health and wellness. The problem is, we all think it’s something different.

So that’s definitely one o
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