Jennifer Barrett is the senior editor for Drug Topics® and Total Pharmacy®.
AmerisourceBergen and Good Neighbor Pharmacy (GNP) kicked off the first virtual ThoughtSpot, GNP’s annual independent community pharmacy conference and trade show.
This article was written in partnership with AmerisourceBergen and Good Neighbor Pharmacy.
Today, AmerisourceBergen and Good Neighbor Pharmacy (GNP) kicked off the first virtual ThoughtSpot, GNP’s annual independent community pharmacy conference and trade show.
In an interview with Drug Topics®, Rich Tremonte, executive vice president and president of Community & Specialty Pharmacy at AmerisourceBergen and Brian Nightengale, PhD, RPh, president of GNP provided an update on how the organizations are helping independent pharmacies thrive during this time and key focus areas for the year ahead.
The Value of Good Neighbor Pharmacy
Now more than ever, patients are seeking local, personalized, and trusted care. The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has forced many pharmacies to adapt to meet the needs of the community. With new challenges at the forefront, GNP is committed to supporting community pharmacists on the front lines.
Speaking to the value of GNP to its customers, Tremonte cited the JD Power 2020 US Pharmacy Study, in which GNP ranked No. 1 in Customer Satisfaction with Chain Drug Store Pharmacies for the fourth consecutive year. This achievement also marks the ninth time GNP has scored the top spot in the past 11 years. Now in its 12th year, the US Pharmacy Study measures customer satisfaction with brick-and-mortar and mail-order pharmacies. GNP ranked No. 1 in all 5 factors: pharmacist, nonpharmacist staff, store, cost competitiveness, and prescription ordering and filling process.1
The study revealed that pharmacy operators are positioning and embracing themselves as hubs of consumer health care, driving higher overall satisfaction, and increased spending as they use more health and wellness-oriented services.1 In the wake of COVID-19, pharmacists are finding new ways to engage with patients, and GNP continues to support pharmacies in the ever-evolving health care climate as they look to diversify their businesses.
“At Good Neighbor Pharmacy, we always have a finger on the pulse of the industry and are investing in services and solutions to help independent pharmacies thrive—not just in today’s environment, but in the future, too. Many of the trends and patient needs we predicted and subsequently invested in over the last few years have proven to be critical in the fight against COVID-19,” said Nightengale.
For smaller, independently owned pharmacies especially, it can be difficult to balance providing the high-touch, personalized patient care that community pharmacies are known for with all the other facets of operating a business. Nightengale pointed to GNP’s Elevate Provider Network as an example of how the organization can help.
“Certainly one of our biggest values that we provide is through our Elevate Provider Network, where we represent thousands of these independent pharmacies in negotiations with [pharmacy benefit managers] and payers,” he explained. Other areas of support include providing digital marketing guidance and front-end expertise. With GNP, independent pharmacies have access to the services and solutions that help them take advantage of these growth areas.
Tremonte noted that AmerisourceBergen has remained committed to the safety and security of the supply chain during the pandemic by working with manufacturers to stay on top of supply chain disruptions and shortages and by making ongoing investments in its distribution services and business continuity planning capabilities.
Tremonte explained how these investments have proven successful during the pandemic, particularly in regard to its business continuity.
“In the beginning of the pandemic, we actually had to close one of our distribution centers due to confirmed-cases of COVID-19 in the facility,” Tremonte said. “Putting our people first and shutting the facility down was an easy decision. What also gave us the confidence was knowing that we had made substantial investmensts in business continuitys across our network and through these investments, we were able to send orders to other distribution centers so our pharmacies were able to continue to get next-day deliveries.”
AmerisourceBergen has also hosted 8 customer town halls, in which company officials speak openly with customers to maintain a transparent exchange of information. Early on in the pandemic, GNP deployed a COVID-19 resource center for its pharmacies on its website.
“If you’re a pharmacy, we really give you a 1-stop shop [on] our website [to make] it easy to get all the important information you need [including] updates because there are so many changing guidelines,” Tremonte said.
Tremonte also mentioned the Fearless Pharmacy campaign, launched by AmerisourceBergen and GNP, which features independent pharmacies going above and beyond for their communities. These inspiring stories have been compiled and showcased on GNP’s website.
“From compounding hand sanitizer for first responders to hosting food and clothing drives for those in need, countless pharmacies are doing amazing work right now. Our Fearless Pharmacy compilation is by no means the limit. We’re going to continue highlighting the inspiring stories we hear from our customers, because they deserve all of the recognition we can give,” said Tremonte.
A Focus on Digital
If anything has demonstrated the need and value of expanded access to community-based care, it’s been COVID-19. Knowing the challenges that COVID-19 has posed for patients, Nightengale also discussed how GNP can help pharmacies commit to patients in a meaningful way.
“[COVID-19] certainly has highlighted the need to have an omnichannel approach,” Nightengale said. “Digital expansion is something we’ll continue to invest in, [and] it’s certainly something we’re going to continue to advise and support our stores in adopting.”
As consumers’ openness to telehealth and alternative ways of engagement with health providers continues to increase amid the pandemic, local pharmacies will need to move in that direction to provide the same level of care through a multichannel approach.
GNP also works with pharmacies to develop multichannel digital marketing solutions designed to reach patients online through social media, mobile technologies that allow patients to manage prescriptions from home, e-commerce platforms, and more.
“We are committed to working with our teams and members to expand our capabilities and broaden their horizons in the omnichannel approach,” Nightengale said.
Expansion of Clinical Services
With more restricted avenues for access to care, community pharmacies have become even more vital to serving marketplace needs—making it an important time to expand their clinical service offerings.
Just last week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Assistant Secretary for Health, issued guidance under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREP Act) to expand access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines when they are made available. This guidance authorizes state-licensed pharmacists to order and administer COVID-19 vaccinations to persons ages 3 or older, subject to certain requirements. With this move in the right direction, it allows pharmacists to provide added value and benefit to the health care market as a whole by opening up access to highly trained community practitioners. And with a growing shortage of primary care providers, especially in rural and underserved areas, community pharmacists are well-positioned to fill health care gaps.
This new authorization preempts any state and local laws that prohibit or effectively prohibits those who satisfy these requirements from ordering or administering COVID-19 vaccines as set forth above. However, state and federal regulations and payment restrictions hold pharmacists back from practicing at the top of their license beyond COVID-19.
Acknowledging pharmacists as providers reinforces the value pharmacists bring to health care teams in emerging health care delivery models. Achieving provider status for pharmacists will make it easier for patients to have access to pharmacist-provided patient care services by specifically referencing pharmacists as providers as well as recognizing the value they bring to the health care team.
GNP continues to focus on leading advocacy efforts at the federal and state levels, targeting areas of payment reform and expanded scope of practice. Other valuable services such as expanded immunization services and point-of-care testing in the pharmacy can provide a huge benefit to the health care system.
“I think coming out of [COVID-19], the profession is united in really pushing harder for the pharmacist’s ability to provide point-of-care testing and screening and to make appropriate therapeutic decisions from that,” Nightengale said.
To best support independent pharmacies, Nightengale discussed key areas of focus for GNP.
“Where we’re focused in the year ahead is to continue the great momentum that we’ve had in expanding the utilization of our digital marketing programs,” he said. Continuing to invest in digital expansion is going to be key in helping independents grow in the ever-evolving market, especially to attract and retain a new generation of customers.
And as pharmacies continue to pivot their services to adapt, supporting business expansion beyond the traditional dispensing will be crucial to success.
“We partner and work closely with organizations like the Community Pharmacy Enhanced Services Network, CPESN,” Nightengale explained. “We encourage our pharmacies to join networks like that so we can open up contracts and performance-based services for payers that are provided by the pharmacies.”
Nightengale added that GNP also launched a pet meds program and is expanding its hospice solution.
“It falls in line with continuing to advocate and support our pharmacies to grow their business and to innovate beyond their traditional model so that they can participate in the future of health care and what the future of pharmacy looks like,” he concluded.
1. Good Neighbor Pharmacy receives “Highest in Customer Satisfaction with Chain Drug Store Pharmacies” from JD Power. News release. AmerisourceBergen. August 20, 2020. Accessed August 31, 2020. https://www.amerisourcebergen.com/newsroom/press-releases/good-neighbor-pharmacy-receives-2020-highest-in-customer-satisfaction