Former Walgreens exec ‘extremely optimistic’ about the future of independent pharmacies.
In November 2018, Nimesh S. Jhaveri, MBA, RPh, became president of Health Mart Pharmacies and senior vice president at McKesson Corporation. Previously, he had been with Walgreens as vice president of healthcare services. Health Mart is McKesson’s nation-wide network of independently owned pharmacies. The interview was conducted by Valerie DeBenedette, managing editor of Drug Topics.
DT: At Health Mart, what do you do for independent pharmacies?
NJ: What I do and what Health Mart does for independent pharmacies is, one, we provide support so they can stay competitive in the marketplace. Two, we provide a personalization of their business model so they can provide more services that are relevant to their patients. And three, we support them through our distribution channel, our contracting for third-party payers, and any other tools that we provide them to really keep their business strong, competitive, and relevant for their patients.
All of the tools, all of the contracting, all of the distribution, everything that a pharmacy owner and a pharmacist needs to make that pharmacy tick is being done in the background. That's the way you want to look at it, so if that pharmacist needs help they would call us and we will provide them with tools. If they need help in their contracting with a health plan or PBM, we would provide that. If they need help with securing a certain medication for their patient, we will provide that. So really, it's all of those back end services that make a pharmacy run.
We have several different services and tools. One is a field team that supports our independents one on one. Our franchise directors are in the field. They're working hand in hand with our owners on various questions from how to manage their P&L to how to manage their clinical services or their front end. So we have boots on the ground.
We also do education sessions, what we call town halls. In those town halls, we will teach them everything from how to run their business better to how to do clinical services better.
At the end of the day we want this to be a seamless operation, so a pharmacy owner and a pharmacist doesn't have to worry about all of that. Let us do the worrying. We want to make sure that you are doing what you do best, which is being a great pharmacist, taking care of your patients, focusing on the clinical activities, focusing on medications therapy, and focusing ultimately on how to drive better outcomes. And at a better cost. You know, that's what a pharmacist is trained to do. So let us do everything else in the background.
DT: How large is the Health Mart network. How does that affect its franchisees?
NJ: We just crossed the 5,000 store barrier. It's a big milestone. Everybody knows Walgreens. That was my previous employer for 29 years. And everybody knows CVS. Health Mart is No. 3 now. And I think that's a huge milestone for Health Mart and for independents. With scale comes the ability to do other things and the ability to drive better outcomes and services and things of that nature, certainly for the patients. It also allows us to negotiate better on their behalf.
The biggest difference between a national chain drugstore and a Health Mart is the ownership of that pharmacy. That pharmacy is owned and operated by an independent owner, who is more than likely the pharmacist. There's a vested interest for them to drive that business in the most effective way possible, individually, store by store.
Another big difference that I see is that most of these owners are generational. They have been taking care of those patients, maybe their moms and dads, and maybe even their moms and dads. So there's the relationship, a long-term seated partnership with their patients that in many instances a large chain may not have. And how do you take advantage of those relationships? How do you take advantage of that trust that the patient has with that pharmacist because there has been a relationship over the years? I think that's the biggest difference. That's why I'm extremely bullish, and extremely optimistic on what independents can do in the pharmacy space, because of that trust and relationship. Let's be honest here. At the end of the day in healthcare, there's nothing more important than trust and relationship to drive better outcomes.
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DT: Coming over from Walgreens, did you have to do any shift in your thinking, from being an executive with a big chain to working with a large group of independent pharmacies?
NJ: The shift in in my thinking is more from the side of how do we keep owners viable and competitive, because they don't have the power of a Walgreens infrastructure or a CVS infrastructure. But they do have the power of a McKesson and a Health Mart infrastructure, which is what we're trying to help them take advantage of.
At the end of the day, all of us are striving to do one thing, which is to elevate the role of pharmacists so they can practice at the top of their license. Whether you're in a chain, or grocery, or an independent, or hospital setting, we should all be working towards one goal, which is to help pharmacists practice at the top of their license, provide the best care that they can and then ultimately be remunerated for those services, whether it's through the payer, or through the government or whatever the case is, and hopefully we'll get that through things like provider status.
DT: You’ve received several patents for pharmacy-related technology in your career. If you were still creating technology for pharmacies, what would you want to be working on next?
NJ: I’m inspired by technology based on artificial intelligence, biosensors, and digital technology that allows a frictionless experience for patients while capturing critical information to help improve overall health and change behavior. And virtual reality to help patients manage their conditions such as pain during an immunization in a more effective manner.
I’m also intrigued by clinical-based technology like immunotherapy for unique cancer treatments and liquid biopsy to help our fight with monitoring cancer cells. With this technology, you may be able to monitor cancer cells through a blood test and in a noninvasive way at the pharmacy.