SAN DIEGO - Wegmans Food Markets is seeing positive results from centralizing pharmacy services.
The Rochester, N.Y., company's main pharmacy technology focus is on its call center and its central fill facility, said Deborah Parker, director, pharmacy operations, during a session at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores Pharmacy & Technology conference here last week.
Over the past five years, Wegmans has been adapting a 25-person call center to "take distraction out of the store so the pharmacist is available to the customer," Parker said.
"Since the call center's implementation, we have found that the pharmacies in our stores have gradually become quieter than they had been," Parker told SN after the session.
The representatives at the facility use an interactive voice response phone system to process refills, including all claims adjudication functions. Most recently, Wegmans has trained the group to handle Medicare questions, Parker said.
"Over the course of Medicare Part D enrollment, the call center handled over 11,000 calls on the benefit, which took a lot of work out of the store," Parker said.
Last April, Wegmans partnered with health care technology provider McKesson, San Francisco, to operate a central fill facility that handles refills for New York state customers, Parker said.
This automation is imperative as Wegmans looks for new avenues for its pharmacy program, Parker said. "We are a food market and we see opportunities in collaborating with other areas of our store such as counseling on nutrition, supplements and recipes. It is a part of what we call our 'Eat Well. Live Well.' concept."
"This type of collaboration will show customers the value of the pharmacist even if they do not have a prescription with us," she said.
Speaking on the same topic, Rick Seipp, manager, technology operations for Rite Aid Corp., Camp Hill, Pa., said that while Rite Aid also tries to tie pharmacy in with other departments through seasonal promotions, the focus of its call center is on customer initiatives.
"The call center is a business model we use for patient programs and compliance reminders," he said.
The patient, not the pharmacist, is the center of today's health care system, said Christopher Thomsen, president and founder of the ThomsenGroup, Kansas City, Mo., during the session. "Through technology, pharmacy now has the ability to work directly with the patient."
Rite Aid currently employs electronic prescribing and workflow software to increase confidence and safety in its pharmacies, and expects to increase services, Seipp said.
Meanwhile, Wegmans is "ready to roll out e-prescribing," through a partnership with pharmaceutical technology provider Kirby Lester, Stamford, Conn., Parker said.
"As we talk about technology-based approaches to pharmacy, we hope the pharmacist is going to be the caregiver for all life stages," Parker said of Wegmans.