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Mass Merchants Offer One-Stop Shopping for Pharmacy Care

Barbara Sax
Published Online: Tuesday, March 15, 2011   [ Request Print ]

Pharmacy is serious business in the mass retail industry. In 2009, mass merchants accounted for nearly 10% of the  total retail prescriptions filled and saw a 6% increase in prescription sales over the previous year—outpacing prescription sales growth in the rest of the retail pharmacy industry.

Chains such as Kmart are responding to the consumer’s desire for one-stop shopping options with stores that allow them to purchase most of their household and health care needs under one roof—while providing the level of professional pharmacy care they would expect to find at a small, neighborhood pharmacy.

“We give our pharmacists the opportunity and encouragement to counsel patients and customers, and encourage them to take an ‘ownership’ mentality,” said Howard Kramer, RPh, director of pharmacy human resources and government affairs at Sears Holdings, the parent company of Kmart.

Pharmacists at the chain appreciate that Kmart expects them to operate the pharmacy as if they were the owners. “We provide our pharmacists with extensive financial information to help them make the best possible decisions in terms of operational activities,” said Kramer. “Of course, we have policies and procedures that have to be followed, like every other company, but our pharmacists are empowered to take care of patients, and improve the lives of our patients and customers.”

KMART IS FOCUSED ON IMPROVED HEALTH OUTCOMES

Kramer said that every prescription filled is an opportunity to improve outcomes—and improved outcomes are frequently a result of patient counseling. That’s why Kmart continues to focus on initiatives to improve patient medication adherence. “The nature of our practice setting at Kmart gives us multiple opportunities to work with providers and patients to provide the best possible medication therapy management,” he said.

Kmart Pharmacy has partnered with several organizations, such as Mirixa and Outcomes, to deliver face-to-face medication therapy management consults to their patients with the intent to promote improved health outcomes.

“We are also expanding our compliance programs by partnering with technology companies, such as Ateb, Catalina Health, and PDX Marketing, in order to ensure that patients stay on their medication, thus optimizing their disease state management,” noted Kramer.

Kmart recently added the Pharmacy Step Smart program, which encourages patients to better manage their cardiovascular health by increasing their daily physical activity, and using an online platform to track their progress and receive helpful tips.

Community outreach is also a big part of the chain’s strategy and Kmart offers 2 national in-store health events each year at which pharmacists offer free screenings (blood pressure, body mass index, memory, etc), medication reviews, and meter demos, as well as provide educational materials to help patients manage their particular disease state.

Year-round immunization services have continued to expand at the chain. Kramer said Kmart’s goal is to have most pharmacists certified and providing influenza and other immunizations in all locations.

Like any community pharmacy, Kmart pharmacists often help patients with the financial concerns that can occur with any long-term medication regimen. “We’re enhancing value programs to help the uninsured and underinsured obtain their medications at an affordable price,” explained Kramer.

INVESTMENT IN TECHNOLOGY

To insure that pharmacists are spending time with their patients, Kmart has made an investment in pharmacy work flow and automation systems that allows for the balance of workloads. “This balance allows pharmacists to process prescriptions during off-peak hours,” explained Kramer. “Our automated system allows patients to call in to refill their prescriptions and informs them when their prescription will be ready. Pharmacists can then manage walk-ins and telephone refills to optimize work flow.” The company continues to see a growth in ePrescriptions.

Kramer noted that when a company is focused on the patient, a national retailer with large-footprint stores can still feel like a community pharmacy. Kmart pharmacists, he explained, are committed to providing personalized service to their patients.

“That’s what we went to school for, right?” he said. “Community pharmacy is one of the best practice types to be able to utilize all of those patient counseling skills students learned and practiced while in pharmacy school,” said Kramer. “Americans today maintain pharmacists at the top of the most trusted group of professionals, so there is always an opportunity to help your friends, neighbors, and customers with their medication needs.”

Kmart pharmacists say that when it comes to career opportunities, practicing in a national mass merchant chain offers a multitude of advantages over other practice settings.

“With stores in 45 states plus Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands, we can find a great place for a pharmacist to work almost anywhere in the country,” said Kramer. The size of the company is also an advantage when it comes to career advancement.

“Kmart pharmacists have many options when it comes to career path,” said Kramer. “Our entire pharmacy management team is made up of pharmacists, so one can transition into a higher level management role, such as district manager, divisional director, or move on up to the corporate level in one of the many areas of operations, human resources, or pharmacy administration. We truly have a great team of pharmacists and supervisors, who work closely together and help each other to achieve common goals.” %u25CF


Ms. Sax is a freelance writer based in Chevy Chase, Maryland.





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