Making Connections

Article excerpt

Medicine

Shoppe links

R.Ph. skills

and technology

Pharmacy franchise chain Medicine Shoppe International is driving toward the future by finding ways to develop its member pharmacists' clinical skills and its use of technology.

Dave Abrahamson, president and CEO, Medicine Shoppe International, St. Louis, Mo., told Drug Topics that his organization is developing a platform in which pharmacists trained in disease management will be supported by a new computer communications system that links them to centralized databases. This plus other initiatives will give the chain a competitive edge in dealing with the managed care needs of tomorrow.

On the technology front, Abrahamson said Medicine Shoppe has already installed a sort of "intranet" communications system, called Medicine Shoppe Connect, in about 800 of its stores since the system was introduced in May 1996. The goal is to complete installations within the year.

Connect links the stores to databases at headquarters, Abrahamson explained. One of the programs in the works that will make use of Connect's capabilities is an accounting package for conducting accounting services for most of the member stores. It should be up and running by the latter part of this year, he said.

The communications system will greatly enhance the delivery of managed care plan information to Medicine Shoppe members, he noted. Future uses for Connect include handling prescription claims information, communicating on purchasing and inventory management, and supporting disease management programs.

Managing therapies

Medicine Shoppe has been training its member pharmacists to play a role in managing patients' drug therapy in relation to diseases such as thyroid disorders, cardiovascular disease, asthma, HIV/AIDS, and anticoagulant therapy, explained Nancy Schwartz, v.p., advertising, at Medicine Shoppe. As of mid-February, about 900 member R.Ph.s had attended at least one training program, and about 200 had completed a full disease management program. The training programs were first offered about a year and a half ago, she said.

One significant success story from the training effort has been in relation to anticoagulant therapy, Schwartz noted. In this program, the focus has been on working with patients to effectively use the anticoagulant drug Coumadin (warfarin sodium, DuPont Pharma).

Coumadin is much less expensive to use than newer biotechnology-based anticoagulant products, Schwartz pointed out. If patients can be effectively counseled and monitored on the use of Coumadin to prevent strokes, Medicine Shoppe R.Ph.s can save a health-care plan a significant amount of money, she commented.

Since the training seminars began for anticoagulant therapy, Abrahamson said, "we've noticed a dramatic increase in Coumadin sales among people who have attended these programs. It's been as much as a 50% increase over the people who have not attended. …