Magazine article Drug Topics

Eckerd Poised to Test New Counseling Strategy

Magazine article Drug Topics

Eckerd Poised to Test New Counseling Strategy

Article excerpt

How far can a pharmacy go in providing counseling and other patient services with products sold at competitive prices and still turn a decent profit? That's one of the key questions Eckerd Drug Co. will try to answer through its new Care and Counseling Program.

The pilot project is scheduled to be launched in October in 17 stores serving the Columbia, S.C., market. Depending on the test results, Eckerd plans to roll out the program to all of its stores--now numbering 1,678--within two years.

Details of the plan came to light late last month at Eckerd's annual marketing and merchandising convention in Tarpon Springs, Fla. That meeting brought together corporate and operational management personnel from 13 states.

Making news: Care and Counseling was unveiled during a "Meet the Press" panel session that included Bob Sullivan, director of pharmacy marketing; Doug Sheasley, one of the operations managers for the Atlanta region; Joe Kearney, director of third party; Rondena Mackey, pharmacy services manager for Houston; and Ted Kasewicz, OTC senior buyer. Val Cardinale, Drug Topics editor, was the moderator.

"Specifically, our goal (in the Care and Counseling program) is to prevent our customers from leaving us when a new guy comes to town and to start to build relationships with new customers," explained Sullivan.

One of the key elements of the program is "Double Check," by which Eckerd promises that its pharmacists will counsel patients on all new prescriptions. The program also will promote drug compliance two ways: through an automatic refill program, in which--at the patient's request--Eckerd pharmacists will automatically refill prescriptions, and through refill-reminder stickers on Rx packages. Another important element of Care and Counseling is a training and development program that will enable pharmacists, technicians, and drug associates to provide the highest level of Rx and OTC service to patients.

Through its ad agency, W. B. Doner & Co., Eckerd has prepared three TV commercials touting the program in the Columbia area. Marketing plans also call for the use of newspaper and radio ads and an extensive public relations effort aimed at health-care professionals.

Clear mission: Care and Counseling is one way Eckerd is meeting the increased competition it and other traditional drugstores are facing in the pharmacy area. The Clearwater, Fla.-based chain has also taken the following steps:

* Chainwide, it has embraced a new pharmacy mission statement: "To provide all customers high quality, professional pharmaceutical care to achieve optimal therapeutic outcomes. …

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