3 Key Themes for the Future of Independent Pharmacy

Independent Pharmacy Trends

By Dave Miller, Managing Editor, Smart Retailing Rx

Turning Challenges into Opportunities for Independent Pharmacy

In late July, McKesson ideaShare 2014 brought together nearly 5,000 people, representing more than 1,000 pharmacies, 600 exhibitors and experts from McKesson and Health Mart,® to share in the ideas that will drive independent pharmacy forward. Everyone in attendance was focused on the trends shaping the healthcare industry and causing rapid and significant change in independent pharmacy.

Pharmacy owners are at a key juncture where dramatic action is required to remain successful, realizing that independent pharmacies can no longer survive by just filling prescriptions. Instead, they need to put greater focus on delivering (and getting credit for) clinical services that impact patient outcomes; and owners of community pharmacies must become even more strategic, aggressive business people and marketers.

From Continuing Education courses, to presentations, to networking sessions, McKesson ideaShare featured numerous pharmacy owners from across the country who have made and are making this transition. The conference highlighted pharmacists and owners who are offering MTM services and medication synchronization programs, collaborating with hospitals on transition programs, increasing their focus on chronically ill patients, and understanding their pharmacy performance metrics so they can take specific actions to improve them.

Overall, everyone in attendance seemed to agree that it is both a challenging and an exciting time in independent pharmacy, with abundant opportunities for those who choose to seize them.

Key Themes

1. The pace of change in the healthcare industry is accelerating.

Throughout the four days, speakers mentioned the unprecedented change taking place in healthcare. This change is being driven in large part by healthcare reform that is bringing more people into the healthcare system and by an aging population that puts an increased demand on healthcare providers.

General trends within healthcare, with implications for community pharmacies, include:

  • Greater emphasis on measuring quality. This fits with macro trends related to greater transparency and accountability.
  • A shift in payment/reimbursement from “fee for service” to “value-based payment” where healthcare providers are increasingly paid based on quality results.
  • Growth in limited, preferred and narrow networks. Payers are using quality data to make network decisions, which will affect where patients receive care.
  • Consolidation and convergence. Healthcare providers are attempting to build scale through mergers and acquisitions, and by forming strategic partnerships.


2. The changes taking place in healthcare and in the retail pharmacy industry require that independent pharmacies adapt and seize new opportunities.

The status quo will not be good enough in the future. Independent pharmacies that continue doing things the same old way may become obsolete. Change is essential. Among the key areas discussed at McKesson ideaShare where pharmacies must change and are changing in 2014:

  • Focusing on quality measures and improvement. A theme in multiple sessions was the growing importance of Star Ratings to payers and the impact that retail pharmacies can have on Star Ratings. Increasingly, payers care about the quality of the pharmacies in their network, as it impacts their payments and marketing. Because of this, payers are making network decisions and are beginning to structure some payments based on quality measures. To ensure access to preferred networks, independent pharmacies should understand their quality measures and then take actions to help improve these measures. This is not a passing fad; it is a long-term trend affecting access to patients and pharmacy revenue.


  • Evolving from a filler of prescriptions to a provider of clinical services. In session after session, innovative pharmacy owners described transforming their business and building a foundation for the future by offering unique (and often reimbursed) MTM services, implementing med sync programs that improve adherence, partnering with hospitals on transitions of care programs, and looking for opportunities to work with ACOs and physicians to better manage the care of chronically ill populations. A common theme was that this transition represents the future of community pharmacy and such services are often an area of competitive advantage for independent pharmacies. Those who are not yet offering such services were strongly encouraged to overcome their reluctance and get started.


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3. Owners of independent pharmacies are not alone. There is an entire ecosystem of support and tools to enable success.

A consistent theme was that the best chance of success is to become better together. By working together, independents can help achieve scale and purchasing power, while retaining independence and flexibility. Independent owners can share best practices and success stories, learn from each other, and support one another.

McKesson and Health Mart are fully invested in helping independents stay abreast of market trends and capitalize on the opportunities that exist. This includes working together to help develop and provide tools, technologies, resources and support with a focus on accessing preferred networks, increasing traffic, driving efficiency and exploring new business opportunities.

Amid this challenging and exciting time in healthcare and pharmacy, McKesson customers and Health Marts are extremely well positioned to succeed.


McKesson ideaShare 2015 will be held June 24–28 in San Diego, California.

Note: The information provided here is for reference use only and does not constitute the rendering of legal or other professional advice by McKesson. Readers should consult appropriate professionals for advice and assistance prior to making important decisions regarding their business. McKesson is not advocating any particular program or approach herein. McKesson is not responsible for, nor will it bear any liability for the content provided herein.