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Q&A from ThoughtSpot 2019.
As AmerisourceBergen and Good Neighbor Pharmacy kick off the annual independent community pharmacy tradeshow ThoughtSpot 2019, we sat down with Rich Tremonte, executive vice president of AmerisourceBergen and president of Community & Specialty Pharmacy to learn more about his and AmerisourceBergen’s commitment to helping customers thrive.
Q: Tell us a little about your current role within AmerisourceBergen. What are your core responsibilities?
RT: I serve as executive vice president and president, Community and Specialty Pharmacy at AmerisourceBergen. This means that the company’s entire retail business falls under my responsibility, which includes independent, chain, long-term, and specialty pharmacies, as well as strategic accounts. Ultimately, it’s my focus to ensure we are doing everything we can as a company to ensure our pharmacy customers have what they need to thrive in today’s environment.
Q: You came from the sourcing side of AmerisourceBergen’s business before this. How have your previous roles prepared you for this one?
RT: I’ve been fortunate to work in the pharmaceutical industry for more than 20 years now, starting on the manufacturer side and then working in a number of roles here at AmerisourceBergen. For the last five years, I helped run–and then ultimately lead–our Strategic Global Sourcing team. In that role, I was working alongside all our manufacturer partners, across brand, specialty, generics, OTCs, biosimilars, and more. In sourcing, my main goal was to make sure manufacturers understood our customers and the value they provide, their ability to impact outcomes and patient care. For me, it was an opportunity to serve as the bridge between the manufacturer and pharmacy, or as we often say at AmerisourceBergen, connecting the creators and the caregivers. And now, I’m doing that to an even greater degree, connecting the buying and selling sides of our business, providing our customers with insights into sourcing and vice versa. It’s been a very natural transition, but I’m enjoying all the learning opportunities of this new role as well.
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Q: As the leader of AmerisourceBergen’s Community & Specialty Pharmacy business, what’s your vision for the group?
RT: We want to be at the table with independent pharmacists and understand, from them, what will help them provide the best possible patient care and optimize their performance. We want to collaborate with them directly and deliver valuable solutions for their specific business. For example, we’re noticing that more customers are ordering online, so we’ve been increasing our commitment to e-commerce. Rather than telling our customers what they need, we want to work together to tailor a solution that works for them. So, my vision is to create a culture where we listen and build creative and collaborative solutions accordingly. And, we want to be easy to do business with, plain and simple.
Q: What do you want independent pharmacies to know about AmerisourceBergen?
RT: Independent pharmacies are central to our business at AmerisourceBergen, and we are truly invested in their success. When we are out in the field, we see the challenges these pharmacies are facing, as well as the accomplishments they are celebrating. I want our independent pharmacy customers to know that we are here to deliver new solutions that will help them achieve that success–both financially, as they run their businesses, but also as they provide care to patients. It’s what we are thinking about all of the time.
Q: What attracted you to a career in pharma, and what makes you excited about partnering with independent pharmacy customers?
RT: I grew up going to an independent community pharmacy. Some of my earliest memories as a child were being sick and visiting our pharmacist, who helped me get better. I understand what a personal connection that is, and now, having children of my own, I get to see the impact a pharmacist can have from an entirely new perspective. Working in an industry that helps people has been incredibly rewarding, and independent pharmacists truly are cornerstones of their communities. It’s inspiring. Plus, I also happen to be married to a pharmacist, so it’s all in the family.
Q: Are you optimistic about the future of independent community pharmacy?
RT: Yes, I am. If you go back 15 years, for example, pharmacies were not providing flu shots or vaccines of any kind to the degree they are today. Our independent pharmacies are doing more than they’ve ever done before in terms of expanded and clinical services. These days, people are more concerned about managing their health and wellness, and they have readily available access to healthcare information and costs. So, independent pharmacies have a phenomenal opportunity to build on their personal relationships with patients, helping to guide them in many ways.
Q: Do you envision the role of the pharmacist changing or expanding in the future?
RT: There’s no doubt in my mind that pharmacists will continue to advance the types of treatment and care they provide toward clinical services–potentially expanding to things like supporting patients with self-administered treatments, providing additional vaccines, biosimilars and more. There is also an opportunity for a consultative shift towards nutrition, wellness and disease state and cost management, especially within high-risk patients. No matter what policy changes happen in Washington, I think we’re moving in a positive direction where patients will see the true cost of care, and pharmacists will be compensated for the services they provide beyond dispensing. The money that is coming out of patients’ pockets is going to continue to matter more. Patients are having to think hard about the money they are spending on healthcare, and I think independent pharmacies are in the perfect position to be a trusted resource for information and support.
Q: Why are independent pharmacies important to the healthcare ecosystem?
RT: When I go out into the field, whether it is to an inner-city pharmacy or a rural pharmacy, the most impressive thing I see is how the pharmacist interacts with the people in that neighborhood and the level of trust that exists. In some areas, where people have less access to healthcare, these pharmacies are truly regarded as community fixtures and the go-to healthcare destination–often the only healthcare provider in the immediate area.
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Q: Is there anything else you want customers to know about AmerisourceBergen’s commitment to supporting independent community pharmacies into the future?
RT: We often hear from pharmacies that their biggest concerns are reimbursement and sourcing–how much do they get paid for the product they dispense, and very understandable, how much do they have to pay for that product? And, making sure that the equation is fair and appropriate. I feel confident that through Elevate Provider Network and our reimbursement and sourcing solutions, combined with programs through Good Neighbor Pharmacy, we are able to help customers improve their profitability and business performance. We also continue to invest and innovate in these areas knowing that they are so important to our customers. On the legislative side, I want pharmacies to know that we are the number one advocate for independent pharmacy, especially as it relates to legislation that will improve the reimbursement environment for pharmacies. We have the biggest presence in Washington among wholesalers, and we’re always looking for opportunities to bring awareness to the issues that matter most to independents.
Q: What are some resources and key learnings you hope attendees at ThoughtSpot walk away with?
RT: This year, we really want attendees to focus on Good Neighbor Pharmacy’s new solution set. We’re shifting from traditional radio and TV advertising to more digital tactics like Google advertising, optimized web presence, new social media tools and more. But, beyond that, we’re introducing enhanced measurement and market analytic tools. So, not only are we giving pharmacies more insight around click rates and local searches, but also more control of their patient reviews and overall online profile. At the same time, we’re creating tools that, along with our business coaches, will help pharmacists analyze the needs and preferences of their local communities, so they can optimize both their services and how they communicate those services to patients. It’s a really exciting time.