Pharmacies can build loyalty by embracing wellness

September 30, 2013By Focus on the Pharmacy Front End Blog, Views

by Jennifer Johnston for Chain Drug Review

September 30th, 2013

The retail consumer shift toward wellness is well under way.

Hamacher Resource Group and several leading trade associations spotted this emerging trend years ago and changed the term “health and beauty care” (HBC) to “health, beauty, and wellness” (HBW) in everything they produced. These days, the wellness industry is booming, and the term HBW is common.

For many shoppers, the desire to be well overrides their desire to buy the lowest-priced products. This goes for everything from food to over-the-counter products and personal care items. Why does this matter to retailers? According to a Global Market Development Center (GMDC) report, “Stores that help transform customers from curious to interested to committed buyers of wellness products raise their potential to ring up more wellness-first and price-secondary sales.”

More shopping trips, fuller baskets and higher margins are all benefits of this transformation. Drug chains have the opportunity to step into this preventive role and encourage the use of O-T-C and personal care products to promote overall wellness.

One way stores are accomplishing this is through the use of wellness counseling, otherwise known as health coaching. Walgreens’ WellTransitions program extends patient care after they leave the hospital by following up with primary care providers, counseling patients on their medication regimen and increasing patients’ connection with the extended care team immediately after discharge.

The patient connection doesn’t end there. Walgreens pharmacists contact patients nine days after discharge, and again at 25 days, to reinforce patient understanding of their regimen, promote adherence, offer disease-specific consultation, encourage contact with physicians and assess satisfaction.

This initiative has been supported by hospitals all over the country. As part of the Affordable Care Act, if too many patients return to the hospital within 30 days of being discharged, Medicare cuts the hospital’s payments. Therefore, hospitals are looking for partners who will coach patients on an ongoing basis to prevent readmission when possible.

Walgreens also offers a program called OptimalWellness in which patients work with a personal health coach to help identify challenges to managing conditions. It also includes counseling on overcoming those obstacles as a way to support all aspects of physicians’ prescribed treatment plans.

Grocery is offering similar programs with retail dietitians. Giant Eagle and Meijer employ Healthy Living Advisors. Some supermarkets offer tours or classes that revolve around wellness. At these stores, the market floor literally becomes a classroom. The pharmacy also can become a classroom as health coaches take groups on condition-specific tours focused around topics such as heart health or diabetes management.

Beyond one-time tours, coaching programs for stores can focus on long-term lifestyle management, resulting in relationship building and patient satisfaction. The health coaching field is growing, with many coaches (including myself) receiving training through The Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) in partnership with the State University of New York. Chains can work directly with certified holistic health coaches (CHHCs) to offer ongoing wellness coaching to shoppers.

Some savvy pharmacists are also becoming trained as CHHCs to fulfill both roles. So instead of only providing a recommendation for an O-T-C to treat a yeast infection, they can tell a customer how to prevent one from recurring. And instead of only dispensing a prescription for a sleeping pill, they can help their patients uncover why they are not sleeping well.

Stacy Bennett, RPh, an IIN graduate, works as a pharmacist at a mass retailer and runs On the subject of pairing health coaching with pharmacy, she says, “I believe health coaching should be incorporated into a thriving pharmacy MTM program. Medication compliance is more important than ever now that insurers are beginning to restructure reimbursement rates based on patient compliance and outcomes. Patients should see the pharmacist for their primary MTM consult, then the health coach for follow up. Health coaches are the missing link between recommending and instituting lifestyle change.”


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