To offset the squeeze third parties have put on pharmacy margins, supermarkets like H.E. Butt Grocery Co., San Antonio; Fred Meyer Inc., Portland, Ore.; and Wegmans Food Markets, Rochester, N.Y., are testing various patient-care programs.
can make a big difference in patients' health and care costs, one recent demonstration project with a Southwestern supermarket pharmacy chain has shown. Chain pharmacists managing the care of indigent diabetes patients for a local hospital helped slash patient-care costs by reducing hospital visits and the length of hospital stays by helping many of the patients improve their serum glucose levels.
Average annual per-patient charges for 107 patients in the program dropped to $2,382 for the 12 months after program enrollment, compared with $6,640 in the 12 months before enrollment.
The average charge per patient for one year for patients who dropped out of the program after an initial visit hit $12,326, said Ed Barnwell, chief executive officer of E2M Health Services, a Dallas-based disease-management services company.
"This is the first and only study I know of that validates the clinical and economic value of the community pharmacist working in concert with the physician to help manage a patient population," said Barnwell.
While Barnwell's pilot employs pharmacists certified as diabetes educators, Price Chopper Supermarkets, Schenectady, N.Y., recently engaged nurses, dietitians and a certified diabetes educator to help diabetic patients in a program of store tours and instructional sessions. Store pharmacists acted as "quarterbacks," sending patients to the appropriate helpers, said William Marth, former pharmacy director.
Hospital discharge planners and endocrinologists welcomed the help. "We were filling most of our tours to capacity. The hospitals loved it," as did manufacturers who participated, said Marth.
"The pharmacy is where the patients return to get their diabetic supplies and medications. Our diabetic sales skyrocketed in the stores that were targeted, and it adds value to the entire store."