To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of the eventual demise of independent community pharmacy are exaggerated. Not just exaggerated, but wildly inaccurate.
A case in point is the roughly 7,000 community pharmacies operating under the sheltering umbrella of Cardinal Health’s clinical service and marketing support programs. Those Cardinal Health Pharmacy Network stores — part of a larger group of more than 25,000 chain and independent stores supplied by the wholesale distribution and health services giant — have shown repeatedly that they can compete successfully against national chains on their own turf.
How? In part, owner-operated pharmacies thrive by exploiting their natural advantages as trusted local sources for personalized care, medications and basic health services, deeply embedded within their communities. But they’re also backed by Cardinal’s enormous arsenal of resources in distribution, combined purchasing, data mining and clinical services.
A priority for Cardinal this year is boosting pharmacies’ ability to improve patient outcomes and Medicare Star ratings, deliver medication therapy management, synchronize prescription refills for better patient adherence and maximize profitability through third-party contract negotiations and more efficient billing. “Our health-and-wellness mission for … independent pharmacists remains focused on ensuring [they] have the right tools and resources to support their valued customers,” said Christi Pedra, SVP marketing and customer solutions for Cardinal’s pharmaceutical distribution division.
By helping its member pharmacies participate in such expanding areas of health delivery as diagnostic screenings and transitional care for patients newly discharged from hospitals, Cardinal “could help our customers grow their business, provide value to patients beyond their prescriptions and focus on patient adherence and wellness,” Pedra told DSN. Those support programs have apparently gained traction with member pharmacies and patients. For one thing, Cardinal Health chairman and CEO George Barrett said, “our pharmacies consistently rank among the highest in customer satisfaction, a testament to the fact that our offerings are helping our customers achieve their quality Star ratings.”
The programs also are earning its pharmacies high marks from CMS. Indeed, “over the past year, we’ve seen a 12% increase in our pharmacies above the five-star threshold across three adherence measures. We can attribute this significant improvement to a number of solutions and educational tools, including Cardinal Health MedSync Advantage and Medication Therapy Management Solution, which allows us to serve as an extension of the pharmacy’s team to help them expand patient care,” Petra said.
“Additionally, with Reimbursement Consulting Service, pharmacies can view their performance across all books of business related to the CMS Star rating measures daily, and an adviser calls them biweekly to discuss opportunities for improvement,” Pedra said. Another tool in Cardinal’s stockpile is OutcomesMTM, which connects pharmacists with healthcare payers. “Pharmacies are paid for providing clinical services to optimize medication regimens and improve adherence for eligible patients,” Pedra said. “MTM services provided by participating pharmacies are reported back to payers with an estimated ROI, demonstrating the value of pharmacy-based patient care.”
“New MTM services, such as medication synchronization and medication reconciliation, are particularly important opportunities for pharmacies to show how their work can improve care and reduce unnecessary healthcare spending,” she said.