Ms. Sax is a freelance writer based in Chevy Chase, Maryland
Chain and independent pharmacies are not the only community pharmacy options open to pharmacists. Increasingly, supermarket pharmacies are offering more patient services and are becoming indispensable pharmacy resources for their patients. They also have become a very attractive practice setting for pharmacists.
?Today?s consumers are looking for answers to help them self-manage their health, and supermarkets have recognized that a pharmacy within the store uniquely positions them to meet this customer demand,? said Cathy Polley, vice president of pharmacy services at the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), a supermarket trade organization. ?Our members believe that there is significant value in leveraging food and pharmacy within the store, and it is rare that a supermarket opens today without a pharmacy.?
Polley said that 71% of today?s pharmacies dispense prescriptions, up from 51% 10 years ago. ?Supermarket pharmacies now fill 14% of all retail prescriptions and account for more than 9% of total store sales. This strong performance demonstrates that pharmacies are strategically essential to food retailers,? she said.
A recent FMI study found that supermarket pharmacies offer a growing array of health and wellness services, often working closely with other health care specialists, such as dietitians and nurse practitioners. Nearly half of all food retailers surveyed in the FMI study provide health seminars and disease management programs. Nearly 40%, for example, offer walk-in clinics.
?Supermarket pharmacies offer many professional services to enhance the shopping experience for their consumers who are trying to live healthier lifestyles,? said Polley. ?Our supermarket Pharmacy Trends 2008 survey reports that more than 80% of supermarket pharmacies are offering or planning to offer medication therapy management [MTM] services.? The survey found that diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and high cholesterol are the most commonly addressed medical conditions in supermarket MTM programs.
At Franklin Park, Illinois?based SUPERVALU Pharmacies, pharmacists perform a variety of in-store clinical services that include immunizations, MTM, and diabetes care services. ?With today?s rising rates of diabetes, obesity, and related health conditions, we are further expanding our pharmacy services to better address these growing public health concerns,? said Nikki Price, RPh, director of pharmacy education at SUPERVALU Pharmacies.
Supermarket pharmacists also are providing other patient-related services. ?With the complex pharmaceuticals on the market today, pharmacists are well-positioned to help patients use their medications safely and effectively. In addition to MTM services, supermarkets offer immunizations, health seminars, store tours, health-focused shelf tags, and in-store clinics,? said Polley. ?Many of our members are involved in innovative practice models that involve partnerships with colleges of pharmacy and retail clinic operators.?
Supermarkets also are uniquely positioned to focus on nutritionrelated health programs. Of the supermarket chains, 32.7% offer nutrition counseling, and 30.8% offer healthrelated recipes.
?Our location in a supermarket environment puts us in a great position to reach large segments of the population across the country and make a significant impact,? said SUPERVALU?s Price. ?We believe that by teaching our patients and store customers how to make wise food and pharmacy choices, our pharmacists can help them stay healthy or manage any health conditions they have.?
SUPERVALU?s Eating Healthy With Diabetes program gives the chain?s Diabetes Care pharmacists opportunities to talk with their patients about diabetes in a way that is instructional and easy to understand. ?In addition to providing guidance on the best ways to manage their medications and properly use their blood glucose meters, our Diabetes Care Pharmacists team up with registered dietitians to conduct educational store tours,? said Price. ?These store tours focus on food label reading and education on the basis of making healthy choices for meals and snacks, as well as understanding all pharmacy solutions to maximize health.?
Ahold USA, which operates Giant, Stop & Shop, and TOPS supermarket/ pharmacies, also is adopting a ?whole health? approach that integrates pharmacy and food.
?The ability for a pharmacist to work side by side with an in-store nutritionist or dietitian demonstrates how uniquely positioned supermarkets with pharmacies are to help consumers appropriately blend their food, nutrition, and medication needs,? said FMI?s Polley. ?A pharmacist working in a supermarket has the opportunity to help their patients sort through health and nutrition information so they can make informed food choices that complement their prescribed medications. As a pharmacist myself, I cannot think of a better practice setting for today?s pharmacists. Supermarket pharmacists care about their patients? health in every aisle of the store, not just at the pharmacy counter.?
Undoubtedly, supermarkets are putting more emphasis on their pharmacies and on the whole-health approach that is essential to a strong pharmacy presence. Hy-Vee, a Des Moines, Iowa?based chain, has increased its focus on pharmacy and has given its 500 pharmacists the freedom and autonomy to make decisions that affect their own pharmacies, so the chain can continue to provide ?professional, people-oriented care? to its patients.
A&P, an established company that retains a dynamic culture, is another example of a supermarket chain that is focused on strong pharmacy services. The 20th largest drug chain in the nation and the fifth largest in the northeastern United States, A&P is celebrating its 150th year in business while continuing to grow. With its recent acquisition of Pathmark stores, A&P became the leading food retailer in the northeastern United States, holding a number-1 market share in the country?s largest consumer market. The company?s corporate culture is creative and inviting?an environment that makes it an attractive place for pharmacists to work.
?Our stores serve as little neighborhoods,? said a company spokesperson. ?Many of our pharmacy customers are shoppers who frequent the store and often drop by the pharmacy with questions. It is very much a community environment.? At A&P, pharmacists oversee all aspects involved in running the dayto- day operations of the pharmacy. Pharmacists develop, implement, and deliver high-quality pharmaceutical services while maintaining high standards of pharmaceutical care. Staff pharmacists ensure that all prescriptions are prepared and dispensed in compliance with company policy, pharmacy procedure, and state and federal laws. They also develop and execute in-store and local merchandising programs and promote the pharmacy business overall.
Disease management and patient counseling are key areas for A&P pharmacists. ?Many of our pharmacists are involved in [MTM], which enables them to spend time with patients. We also encourage them to partner with community health screenings, health fairs, and other events,? said Carol DiNicolantonio, senior director of pharmacy at A&P. ?We enable our pharmacists to present and implement ideas on stateof- the-art pharmaceutical practices regularly. We actually have a team of clinical pharmacists who meet to discuss best practices on a regular basis and who share their ideas with others throughout the organization.?
A&P staff pharmacists have a number of opportunities for career growth on 2 career paths. Some pharmacists choose to become pharmacy managers and then progress to district manager and other management positions, while others opt for a clinical pharmacist position and progress through that channel.
In summary, supermarket pharmacies have a lot to offer?not only do they provide convenience for patients to complete their pharmacy needs while they are grocery shopping, but this provides an ideal point for pharmacists to become involved in their patients? health care and effect patient outcomes. Many supermarkets empower their pharmacists in delivering high-quality health care by giving them decision-making capabilities in the day-to-day operations of the pharmacy.