Magazine article Drug Topics

2011 Chain of the Year

Magazine article Drug Topics

2011 Chain of the Year

Article excerpt

Franchise operation recognized by pharmacists and consumers as No. 1

Way to go, independents. Drug Topics' 2011 pharmacy chain survey, fielded in April, produced stunning numbers: 100% excellent or very good in customer service, 100% as an excellent or very good place for pharmacists to work, 93% offering medication therapy management, 93% offering immunizations. And the name that kept coming up wasn't a chain at all. It was Health Mart, a franchise operation run by wholesale giant McKesson.

It wasn't just Drug Topics' respondents who put Health Mart at the top of the list. Consumer Reports surveyed nearly 44,000 of its readers to come up with a similar conclusion, which was published in its May issue. Neighborhood independents were the top-rated pharmacies, with independently owned Health Mart at the top of the list. The vast majority of Consumer Reports' readers, 94%, said they were highly satisfied by their experiences with neighborhood independents. Readers who used independents were twice as likely to describe their pharmacists as easy to talk to and able to give them a one-on-one consultation,

"I'm pleased, but not really surprised," said Timothy J. Davis, PharmD, owner of Beaver Health Mart Pharmacy in Beaver, Pa,, near Pittsburgh, "The idea that patient care drives business lies firmly in the hand and the mind of every Health Mart owner and pharmacist. If we make a patient-focused decision, it will also be the best decision businesswise for the pharmacy. So long as we focus on the patient, the correct business outcomes will follow. That's the premise that makes us successful as individual pharmacies, and that's the premise that makes us successful as a group."

The McKesson role

Health Mart also got the nod as Drug Topics' Chain of the Year in 2007, McKesson inherited the franchise when it acquired FoxMeyer in 1996 but didn't do much with the unit for a time, As the store count trickled from a high of 800 to approximately 200 units, McKesson gutted the operation to the bare walls and rebuilt. Within a year of the 2006 relaunch, Health Mart had climbed to 1,300 stores. The chain continues to add approximately 400 stores a year, said President Tim Canning; it topped 2,800 pharmacies in early May.

"We are focused on our patients' needs," Canning told Drug Topics. "We are focused on patient outcomes and how to better utilize the resources of our pharmacists and McKesson to provide that better patient care. Our real advantage is that locally owned aspect. Locally owned pharmacies are known for patient care and for crafting relationships with individual patients, which is why independents rose to the top of the list."

Health Mart is built on 3 pillars. The franchise helps owners enhance their clinical and business capabilities, build better relationships with existing patients, and bring more patients to the store. The idea, Canning said, is to help owners and pharmacists focus on patient care and customer service, because those are the 2 areas that build repeat business and profits.

The concept sounds simple enough: Select your goal, focus on better patient care, and build the systems needed to support the goals. But it doesn't take long to run into barriers, such as the time it takes to counsel patients effectively and figuring out how to squeeze that time out of an already full schedule. And then, of course, you have to come up with ways to get paid for counseling.

When the front end is limited, as it is for most independents, how do you optimize product selection and placement? The big chain store across the street and the bigger big-box down the street have armies of merchandisers to maximize sales per square foot. Independent owners have themselves ... and Health Mart.

"We send a merchandiser to every store every month/' Canning said, "We get new Rx-to-OTC switch products on 90% of our shelves within 2 weeks of launch. We freshen the categories to make sure the product mix is contemporary and has the best sellers, so our stores can compete with the big chains on a level playing field. …

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