For the 17th consecutive year, Rx EDGE joined 700+ companies exhibiting at the August National Association of Chain Drug Stores Total Store Expo. The event represented a unique coming-together of leaders from retail pharmacies and their business partners in pharma and other industries.
Throughout the three days, the spirit was optimistic, upbeat, and positive—a definite indicator of how and where people feel our industry is heading.
The theme of this year’s expo, “Leading Health and Wellness,” was reflected everywhere. In fact, the exhibit hall had the look and feel of an immense pharmacy, with an abundant number of consumer health and wellness products and services on display throughout the show’s footprint.
In thinking about what I heard and saw during the expo, here are five observations that came to mind:
1. Pharmacies are forging new ground.
“Disrupt. Innovate. Impact.” Those were the words that best described the first full day of the event. NACDS chairman Mark Panzer set the tone during his remarks, describing successful work throughout 2018 in expanding pharmacists’ immunization authority, fostering medication synchronization, and enhancing the ability of pharmacists to deliver medications. Panzer, who is senior vice president of pharmacy, health and wellness at Albertsons, also talked about NACDS’s value in government advocacy. “I learned something in the early days of my career that reinforce the importance of advocacy. What I learned, and what is reinforced for me every day, is just how important pharmacies are to people and to the communities they serve. The pharmacy is worth fighting for.”
2. We are seeing more innovation and inspiration.
Innovation and new thinking were visible everywhere at the Expo—evidenced by the abundance of new products as well as by companies who are uncovering new ways to engage in the pharmacy world. This was particularly on display in the Vision 2029 pavilion, where attendees could view cutting-edge offerings, from the latest facial recognition software to wireless pill bottles that collect and send adherence data. For pharma companies, these and other technologies offer exciting potential for patient education and interaction.
3. There is a renewed focus on collaboration.
One of the unique benefits of the NACDS Total Store Expo is that it offers an excellent platform for conducting business and making meaningful connections. In our case, that meant having the opportunity to meet with virtually all our key clients to share ideas and plan for 2019. The quality of these interactions reinforced many of the themes I wrote about in my article “Aligning with patients means aligning with each other,” which was published in Chain Drug Review last year. There really is no better opportunity available in this industry than to work together toward solutions that enhance patient health and simultaneously promote loyalty to both a retailer and a pharma manufacturer.
4. Expanded service offerings are on the rise.
There’s no doubt that the core mission of the pharmacy channel is health and wellness. The industry wants to empower pharmacists, enhance access to the newer services they are offering, and expand their role as a valuable healthcare resource. This level of personalization is something that online retailers are not able to deliver.
In a show recap video, David Kirkus, the Director of Pharmacy Administration for Publix Super Markets, put it best:
“We’re continuing to focus on clinical solutions for our patients to grow medication adherence and expand our service offerings as the retail segment continues to grow and more people are seeking services more conveniently. We’re just looking to position ourselves to be the best we can as a health and wellness destination for our consumers.”
Pharmacy retailers have built an entire ecosystem of value-added, health-enhancing services. What they’ve done, and continue to do, is create a convenient, welcoming environment where patients are encouraged not just to think about their health, but to discuss and proactively take action to enhance it.
5. The OTC business is robust and expanding.
According to the Nielsen presentation “Storytelling in the OTC aisles”, OTC dollar volume continues to grow year-over-year, with the largest increases posted in sleep aids, pain relief, eye care, upper respiratory, and GI care. Vitamins and supplements, considered a “first line of defense” for consumers who are focused on their general health and longevity, are a key area of growth for the health and nutrition category. These trends reflect the changing needs and mindset of consumers and their personal objectives to pay more attention to their self-care needs. Consumers in a pharmacy are motivated to take action!
The pharmacy as a healthcare hub
We have often talked about the pharmacy as a healthcare hub. Nowhere was that more evident than at this event. Every year that I attend NACDS, I’m incredibly impressed by the level of optimism, excitement and innovation. The pharmacy is truly the agent of change in healthcare and is always forward-thinking in its outlook. I’m proud that Rx EDGE Media Network is part of this tremendous community that focuses on health and well-being.
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