Making the Pharmacy a Health and Wellness Destination

JANUARY 16, 2012
Fred M. Eckel, MS, RPh
In my last blog, I described Walgreens’ decision to break with the Express Script pharmacy network as being good for pharmacy and Walgreens. On January 11, 2012, Walgreens (at its 2012 shareholders’ meeting) offered “5 key strategies that will help propel the pharmacy forward in a new era of pharmacy retailing.” If they can pull off these strategies, I believe that Walgreens will be a stronger company. 
 
My summary of the 5 strategies are:
1) Make the store a health and wellness destination
2)  Advance the pharmacist role as a communicator directly with patient to broaden scope of services offered quickly
3) Engage employees to provide outstanding customer service
4)  Become a multichannel retailer
5)  Improve cost containment
 
I am particularly impressed with the first two strategies. I believe that we have to make the community pharmacy a health care facility and that is what Walgreens wants to do. To make this work, pharmacists must become truly accessible to patients so they can really interact and offer health care advice.  Pharmacists are trusted by patients but often pharmacists cannot easily break away to talk to patients. They appear so busy that people don’t want to “bother them.”
 
If Walgreens really makes the pharmacist accessible that image should change dramatically and patients will want to engage the pharmacist. This should help change the patient’s perception that the pharmacist works in a health care center—not just a retail store. Walgreens may have done this without first making a decision to cut their ties with Express Script, but it seems to me that decision may have lead to these developments. Our profession needs to move beyond a focus on selling a commodity and providing care. Walgreens’ strategy seems to be doing that. This is both good for pharmacy as well as Walgreens.  Do you agree?
 

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