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Our Take: Independent pharmacy network rated highest in customer satisfaction

Aug 26, 2019

Good Neighbor Pharmacy tops the list of chain drugstores in customer satisfaction, according to a new survey by J.D. Power and Associates. The network of independent pharmacies received the highest overall score among brick-and-mortar chain store pharmacies, with a score of 914 out of 1,000 possible points, followed by Health Mart (893), Rite Aid Pharmacy (865), Walgreens (840), and CVS (834).

Among mass merchandiser pharmacies, Sam’s Club won the top slot in customer satisfaction with a score of 890, followed by Costco (879), CVS/pharmacy inside Target (869), and Walmart (837).

In the supermarket category, Wegmans led a long list of chains with a score of 915, with Publix (897), Winn-Dixie (896), H-E-B (894), ShopRite (886), and Albertsons (875) also earning above-average ratings.

Humana Pharmacy led the mail order pharmacy group with a score of 900, followed by Kaiser Permanente Pharmacy (886) and OptumRx (869). The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs mail order pharmacy actually scored highest in the category, at 906, but was not rank eligible because it didn’t meet the study award criteria.

Our Take: The first thing that jumps out from this survey of more than 12,000 consumers is that the nation’s largest chain drugstores, Walgreens and CVS, scored below average when compared with the others. Walgreens was also at the bottom of the list of eight mail order pharmacies.

But more interesting than the rankings are the responses to other questions J.D. Power asked.

For instance, while only 20% of people surveyed said they use a pharmacy’s mobile app, their satisfaction scores were up to 23 points higher than the scores for non-users — which means that although people have been slow to adopt the technology, once they do, they really like it.

Respondents who said they had communicated with their pharmacy by email or online chats reported being at least as satisfied as when talking with their pharmacist in person. Most, however, still interact with their pharmacy via in-person visits (89%).

Consumers also like to get the most out of their conversations with a pharmacist. Customer satisfaction is higher (above 940) when pharmacists cover four or more topics while talking with a customer, as compared with just one (884) or two (917) topics.

Maybe that’s why the independents — Good Neighbor is a network of locally owned pharmacies — scored higher than any other pharmacy in any other category.

Here’s how Good Neighbor describes itself: “Good Neighbor Pharmacy is a family of locally owned, locally loved independent pharmacies united by their commitment to providing personalized care to their patients far beyond simply filling prescriptions.”

The bottom line? The vast majority of consumers are old school. They like to talk to their pharmacist in person and want to talk about more than their prescription. Getting people to adopt new technologies could be a challenge for disrupters like Amazon’s PillPack.

However, as Greg Truex, managing director of health intelligence at J.D. Power noted, “[T]he potential for technology disruption is there. Although the frequency of use of digital solutions is low, early adopters are showing high levels of satisfaction.”

The larger chain drugstores clearly have a budgetary advantage when it comes to attracting and retaining customers, whether through new digital technologies, enhanced delivery services, or more comprehensive health and wellness services. For example, CVS’ HealthHubs devote approximately 20% of their retail space to preventive care, wellness activities, and education that centers on managing chronic conditions. Few independent pharmacies can afford to do that.

The J.D. Power survey found that roughly 4 in 10 customers who were aware of health and wellness services at their pharmacy used them, and among these customers, “significantly [fewer] received a prescription as a result of their participation in 2019 as compared with 2018.”

Can the big-box stores and their additional services erode consumer loyalty among people who love their neighborhood pharmacy? Time — and future surveys — will tell.

What else you need to know
CMannounced that quality star ratings for qualified health plans offered on the Health Insurance Marketplace will be available starting with the upcoming open enrollment period for the 2020 plan year, which runs from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15, 2019. The rating system will be similar to the one used for Medicare Advantage plans, with enrollees rating in-network physicians, the care they receive, customer service, and overall experience. Ratings will be posted on HealthCare.gov and all state exchange websites, though ratings might not be available for all plans — particularly new ones or those with low enrollment.

Separately, CMsaid it would use existing methodology to update the hospital star ratings early next year — even though that methodology has been heavily criticized in the past. The methodology will be revised early in 2021, CMS said, based on input received during a recent public comment period. 

Dallas-based Signify Health and Norwalk, Conn.-based Remedy Partners signed a definitive agreement to merge, the companies announced last Tuesday. Through the merger, they will create a unified value-based platform to improve patient care and efficiency in bundled payment models. Remedy works with providers that initiate an episode of care to identify other providers needed to manage the patient’s care and costs for the rest of the episode. Remedy then aligns all of the providers on the same operating platform to manage the bundle. After the merger, the resulting entity will have more than 9,000 credentialed providers and a nationwide partner network comprising more than 300 provider systems, 2,000 post-acute organizations, and over 200 community locations. Terms of the merger were not disclosed.

SSM Health formed a joint venture with Denver-based Paladina Health to offer direct-to-employer primary care in the St. Louis area starting next year. According to a press statement, the new company will open clinics staffed by a primary care physician and a medical assistant. Each clinic will have an in-house pharmacy and lab, and will provide primary, preventive, and acute care services. Under the company’s value-based care model, businesses will pay a flat fee for each employee’s primary care services; employees will not pay anything out of pocket for the primary care services they receive.

New drug approvals
Genentech’s Rozlytrek (entrectinib), a personalized cancer treatment based on biomarkers rather than a tumor’s specific location in the body, was approved for two indications: difficult-to-treat solid tumors with NTRK gene fusions, and ROS1-positive non-small cell lung cancer tumors. Foundation Medicine is preparing to submit a companion diagnostic for FDA approval. Rozlytrek will cost about $17,000 per month, nearly half the price of Eli Lilly and Bayer’s Vitrakvi (larotrectinib), a rival treatment approved last November. 

AbbVie’s Rinvoq (upadacitinib), the successor to top-selling Humira (adalimumab), received approval as a treatment for patients with moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis who do not respond to or cannot tolerate methotrexate. Reuters reported that AbbVie will price Rinvoq, an oral JAK inhibitor, at $59,000 per year — slightly less than the price of Humira. The company plans to offer a copay card that could reduce eligible, commercially insured patients’ out-of-pocket costs for Rinvoq to $5 per month. AbbVie said Rinvoq should be available to U.S. patients later this month. 

Nabriva Therapeutics’ first-in-class antibiotic Xenleta (lefamulin) was approved in oral and IV formulations for use in patients with community-acquired bacterial pneumonia. The drug’s mechanism of action is different from that of other approved antibiotics, “resulting in a low propensity for the development of [antimicrobial] resistance, as well as a lack of cross-resistance with [other] antibiotic classes,” Nabriva noted in a press release.

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