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    NONFOODS: Pharmacy News: In-store cures

    The supermarket pharmacy industry is stabilizing; in-house health clinics are gaining momentum; and Wal-Mart begins a massive pharmacy media program.

    Supermarket pharmacies show financial stability: FMI survey

    The whole-health movement helped supermarket pharmacies maintain their financial stability in 2005 despite some major regulatory challenges, according to a new report from the Food Marketing Institute.

    The report, Supermarket Pharmacy Trends 2006, said whole-health services for customers were among the factors that enabled the grocery segment to compete successfully; other aids included an increased focus on technologies, among them electronic prescribing, robotic prescription filling, and labeling systems.

    The major challenges that hit pharmacies this past year included preparing for Medicare Part D and complying with new laws restricting the sales of cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine, which can be used illegally to produce methamphetamine.

    "It is most impressive to see more supermarket pharmacies reaching beyond the prescription counter to help consumers improve their health and well-being," notes FMI s.v.p. Michael Sansolo. "In addition, the findings from this year's report are reassuring given the amount of regulatory change in pharmacy operations over the past 12 months."

    Key findings of the report include:

    --The median number of prescriptions filled per day, 120, remained unchanged from 2004.

    --Prescription revenues remained at 9 percent of total store sales.

    --The median cost of a prescription increased slightly, to $55 from $53.

    --Responding pharmacies reported that eligible Medicare customers had little understanding of the new Part D prescription drug coverage. Only 2.3 percent of pharmacy respondents thought consumers had a good understanding of the programs, while 97.6 percent felt consumers had a poor or fair understanding.

    -- Almost three-quarters of all supermarket pharmacies are set up to accept e-prescriptions from physicians now, or will be by the end of 2006.

    --Two-thirds of all supermarket operators are using robotic prescription filling in at least one pharmacy. These systems remove drugs from shelves, fill containers with the prescribed amount, and print and attach the labels.

    --Supermarket pharmacies reported an average of 12 inventory turns per year. At one turn higher than last year's findings, this could reflect the growing number of drugs being dispensed by the pharmacy vs. over the counter.

    --Almost 85 percent of pharmacies use loss prevention equipment such as cameras and key controls to deter internal theft and monitor product movement behind the pharmacy counter.

    --Health seminars and health-focused recipes top the list of in-store services, with 54.3 percent of pharmacies offering each. Meanwhile 52.2 percent give store tours, showing customers where to find healthful products.

    --Pharmacy employee turnover is lower than supermarket employee turnover. Creative benefits for pharmacists include performance bonuses, sign-on bonuses, additional vacation, continuing education, reimbursement, relocation, licensing fees, and professional membership fees.

    For more information visit the FMI Store at www.fmi.org/store/ or call (202) 220-0723.

    More supermarkets offering in-store clinics

    The in-store clinic trend is spreading like a bout of the sniffles at a nursery school. In one of the latest outbreaks, Schenectady, N.Y.-based Price Chopper has joined the ranks, entering into an agreement with Farmington, Conn.-based ProHealth Physicians, the state's largest primary care physician practice, to provide greater access to professional health services by offering in-store clinics located right next to Price Chopper pharmacies. The MedAccess units will provide on-site health care visits for as little as $45 a visit.

    Each unit will feature a nurse practitioner able to treat such ailments as cold sores, poison ivy, tick bites, pink eye, sinus infections, and strep throat. Immunizations and other health screenings such as blood pressure and cholesterol will also be offered. Wait times are minimal, no appointments are necessary, and MedAccess staffers are able to prescribe medications, the provider says.

    Patient data is collected on-site, with privacy and security protections in place. At the end of the visit, in a process seamless to the patient, a summary of notes and findings is given to the patient and the patient's primary care physician, to facilitate continuity of care and ensure that the patient's medical chart includes a record of the visit.

    "The collaboration with MedAccess...presents the opportunity to provide exemplary pharmaceutical care to patients that can demonstrate the added value of the pharmacist," says Price Chopper director of pharmacy Kathy Bryant. "Together we strive to find the best balance of quality access and cost resulting in improved health care outcomes."

    The first MedAccess location is scheduled to open this summer in a Price Chopper in Putnam, Conn.

    ProHealth Physicians includes almost 200 physicians specializing in internal medicine, pediatrics, and family practice throughout Hartford, New Haven, Litchfield, and Middlesex counties. The group treats more than 300,000 patients in Connecticut.

    The family-owned Golub Corp. owns and operates more than 100 Price Chopper grocery stores in New York, Vermont, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. Golub's approximately 23,000 associates collectively own 55 percent of the company's privately held stock.

    In another case of clinic fever, St. Louis-based regional independent Schnuck Markets, Inc. has begun construction on health care clinics in four metro area stores with partner instaClinic.

    The clinics, set to open this fall, will be near existing in-store pharmacies in Butler Hill, Lindell, Mid Rivers, and Alton, Mo. Schnucks stores, giving shoppers walk-in access to treatment for common illnesses or minor conditions.

    "Everyone deserves access to quality health care," says Scott Schnuck, president and c.e.o. of Schnucks. "The medical professionals behind instaClinic have provided a concept that will help Schnucks make that happen for more members of our community. Our new partnership will complement health counseling and education services currently offered to Schnucks pharmacy customers through our own 'Healthy Living' initiative, and will further enhance our ability to help customers and associates improve the quality of their lives."

    Dr. Lawrence Kriegshauser, a local surgeon and member of the instaClinic Medical Advisory Council, notes that instaClinic "is special in that it is operated by experienced health care professionals with strong ties to the St. Louis community, while most other retail-based clinics are operated by large chains and out-of-state corporations with no health care experience. This local flavor and expertise qualify instaClinic to better understand how to work with our physicians to serve this community's health care needs."

    The clinics will open for extended hours, seven days a week, and will be staffed by nurse practitioners who will provide treatment for common illnesses such as allergies, colds, and sprains, in addition to offering convenient access to health counseling, screenings, and immunizations. Visits to the clinics are without appointment, and the typical cost is less than $50, the partners say.

    All four Schnucks clinics are scheduled for completion before the start of flu season this fall. Plans call for continued development of more in-store clinics in St. Louis and surrounding areas.

    Schnuck Markets, Inc. operates 102 stores (including five Logli stores) and 99 pharmacies in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Iowa.

    Additionally, Kroger-owned Fred Meyer, based in Portland, Ore., plans this fall to open SmartCare Family Medical Centers inside stores located in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington.

    Fred Meyer will initially open SmartCare centers in the Seattle market. "SmartCare Centers will provide our customers with convenient access to basic and preventive health care," says Melinda Merrill, director of public affairs for Fred Meyer. "This partnership will help us enhance our service and value to our customers."

    SmartCare Centers are staffed by nurse practitioners and certified medical assistants, with a physician on call at all times. The clinics offer care for common ailments such as sore throats, ear infections, and seasonal allergies, as well as basic health services that include flu shots and other vaccines, school and employment physicals, and cholesterol screenings.

    Fred Meyer operates 28 multidepartment stores in the Pacific Northwest, ranging in size from 130,000 to 200,000 square feet.

    Wal-Mart to revamp pharmacy positioning via big multimedia push

    Get ready to see Wal-Mart's pharmacy operations in a whole new light. The world's largest retailer is prepping to unveil its largest pharmacy marketing effort ever, according to Kansas City, Mo.-based ad agency Bernstein-Rein, which is working with the chain on the project.

    The fully integrated campaign will include television, radio, print, outdoor, online, in-store, and direct-mail components, as well as the Accent Health Network in physicians' offices. The first TV spot broke in July, and other elements will roll out over the next couple of months.

    Bernstein-Rein, one of the six largest independent advertising agencies in the country, says it has completely repositioned the department as "The Pharmacy At Wal-Mart" to help customers think of it as a full-service pharmacy staffed by experienced and knowledgeable pharmacists, with all of the professional products available anywhere. The agency also created a new logo for The Pharmacy At Wal-Mart, along with handling all creative and media aspects of the campaign.

    The initiative is broken into two target audiences: moms with children at home and senior citizens. While each campaign has a similar look and feel and both use the new logo, the executions are tailored to suit the different audiences, according to the ad agency. For moms, the message will emphasize time savings. The senior-focused advertising will convey the peace of mind that seniors get from knowledgeable pharmacists and Wal-Mart's national prescription network.

    The "moms" commercial features CGI-animated pills of different types (pills, capsules, gel caps, etc.) grouping to create real-life objects, both animate and inanimate. For instance, there are flowers, a playground, a tennis ball, and a glass of lemonade all made from pills, but also a bumblebee, a bird, and a dragonfly.

    The "seniors" commercial features oversize, animated pills in which leisure pursuits are played out by stylized live-action characters. In one pill, there are people gardening; in another, they're riding bikes; in a third, playing golf and, finally, characters are shown playing with grandchildren at a playground.

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