NEW ORLEANS -- In-store pharmacy design was once a simple matter: a counter, shelves and three walls in a well-trafficked area of the store, preferably near health and beauty care.
No more, said retail executives interviewed during the Food Marketing Institute's Supermarket Pharmacy Conference here last month.
Today's pharmacies must take into account the need for drive-through windows, ready access to over-the-counter medications, positioning that leverages the health aspects of food products and natural supplements, a drug store-like ambience, and relatively private consultation areas so that pharmacists can take advantage of the Medication Therapy Management aspect of the coming Medicare Part D program.
"We're seeing that the pharmacies need to be more efficient and productive in the area that they have in the store," said Michele Snider, director of pharmacy, Save Mart Supermarkets, Modesto, Calif.
While the chain tries to make its pharmacies customer-friendly, it has to balance the privacy mandates of HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, she said. "So it's very difficult to weigh the two, plus we try to integrate the pharmacy into the supermarket and have it near our wellness areas, near our produce, or some other health-related section of the store," Snider said.
Save Mart, like nearly all the retailers contacted by SN at the conference, puts in drive-through windows whenever it can for the convenience of its customers, she said.
"We are positioning pharmacies in our newer stores on an outside wall to be able to accommodate drive-through," said John Beckner, director of pharmacy and health services, Ukrop's Super Markets, Richmond, Va.
The opportunity to relate pharmacy to wellness and nutrition is one of many design priorities for Ahold USA, Braintree, Mass., said John Fegan, senior vice president, pharmacy. "If we can focus the consumer on overall nutrition, starting with the produce department, which I think is the gateway to health, and then lead them into the rest of the store, with pharmacy and HBC being an integral part of health, it becomes a nutritional racetrack," Fegan said.
In the latest prototype store of Schnuck Markets, St. Louis, "we've tried to give our pharmacies, and the OTC areas right outside the pharmacies, more of a drug store look, to give it more definition within the total store, and to encourage the store-within-a-store concept," said Curtis Hartin, director of pharmacy. "We've set it off with its own graphics package and the way that the aisles are laid out."
The permanent Medicare prescription drug benefit program, known as Part D, which takes effect in 2006, has a provision for reimbursing pharmacies for the time they spend counseling patients. As a result, many new pharmacies are being designed with consultation areas that will enable retailers to take part in Medication Therapy Management.
Verne Mounts, director of pharmacy, Buehler Food Markets, Wooster, Ohio, is now working on a store design. "Something I had never considered before was making sure there is a private consulting area." Mounts expects to get involved in Medication Therapy Management "and that cannot effectively take place at the counter. You have to have a room, you have to have access to the comprehensive medication profile, and other resources," he said.
There may be a need to take the patient's blood pressure or obtain their weight, he noted, and "you need some privacy."
At Winn-Dixie Stores, Jacksonville, Fla., "we have seen a trend toward counseling areas, and we think it is the future," said Mike LeBlanc, director of pharmacy business development. "Down the road, as we get into Medication Therapy Management, there's going to be a lot more opportunity for pharmacists to use those areas for very private sessions," he said.
"In some of our store designs, we have set up an area for disease management consulting," said Edward Saba, vice president, pharmacy, Bashas', Chandler, Ariz. Although the chain has not used these areas as much as it wants to, it has a full-time clinical pharmacist for the Phoenix area, and a part-time resident for its Tucson stores, and expects to get into Medication Therapy Management, Saba said.
"We started out looking at private consultations, but have come back to semi-private areas where the pharmacist can stay inside the pharmacy and the customer is on the outside," said Michael Halliwell, director of pharmacy and whole health, Ball's Food Stores, Kansas City, Kan.
Supervalu, Eden Prairie, Minn., is expanding its prescription pick-up areas for private stand-up counseling, said Steve McCann, director of pharmacy operations. That will allow the company "to meet the need for more in-depth, one-on-one counseling, and prepare us well for the Medication Therapy Management of Medicare Part D," he said.
Many of the pharmacy executives mentioned the need to locate over-the-counter medications very close to the pharmacy so customers could best take advantage of the pharmacists' expertise. "For a pharmacist to effectively make any recommendation, they have to take no more than five or six steps, grab the product, and discuss it with the consumer. It won't work if it's 20 or 30 steps away," Mounts said.
At Bashas', OTC products are on lower-profile shelving directly in front of the pharmacy "so the consumer can be seen when they are in that area and a pharmacist or technician can assist them," Saba said.
K-VA-T Food Stores, Abingdon, Va., is beginning to separate health products from the beauty categories, and locating them as close to the pharmacy as possible, said Don Clarke, director of pharmacy operations. "That is driven by the fact that pharmacist recommendations can truly impact and increase your sales of over-the-counter items," he said.
"The idea is to make a drug store inside of a supermarket and put the traditional drug store items, like the over-the-counter health items in front of the pharmacy," he said.
That is a design challenge as chains also try to position pharmacies on outside walls to allow for drive-through windows, noted Halliwell of Ball's Food Stores. Retailers need to make sure that related HBC products follow pharmacy if it is moved "so that the pharmacist can drive that business," he said.