PHILADELPHIA — Rite Aid Corp. chief pharmacy officer Karen Staniforth says that Rite Aid has always been focused on the pharmacist and the prescription counter as its growth engine.
The pandemic, of course, validated that view by highlighting the vital and elevated role that pharmacists play in their communities. She notes that pharmacists have been providing vaccinations since the early 2000s, and they have been conducting point-of-care testing and prescribing hormonal contraceptives for years in states where regulatory conditions are favorable.
Staniforth, whose responsibilities expanded this year to include oversight of market access, store and field pharmacy operations, Health Dialog and the health plan business, says the pandemic recast the relationship customers have with their pharmacies and it affirmed Rite Aid’s long-standing belief that pharmacists are trusted local health care advisors. The company, she says, is dedicated to building on that relationship. That strategy is exemplified by Rite Aid’s opening of four small-format stores in rural Virginia as part of a pilot program to boost access to pharmacists’ services in “pharmacy deserts” and underserved communities. The stores feature a full-service pharmacy and a retail assortment of health and wellness products and are led by the pharmacy manager.
The latest such store debuted in the spring in Grottoes, Va., with less than 1,800 square feet, a fraction of the average 11,000- to 15,000-square-foot standard Rite Aid location. “We are excited to introduce Rite Aid to the Grottoes community and provide vital pharmacy services and health care much closer to home,” said Staniforth. “Pharmacists play an important role in the health of a community and can help customers understand their health conditions, stay adherent on their medications and vaccinations, and provide over-the-counter product recommendations. Our local pharmacy team in Grottoes looks forward to becoming trusted care advisors and helping customers improve their health.”
Chainwide, Rite Aid is investing in technology to free up its pharmacists from routine tasks in order to devote more time and attention to adherence, medication therapy management activities, treatment counseling, vaccinations and point-of-care testing. At the heart of the effort is the establishment of a centralized pharmacy team that includes additional clinical support for pharmacists and patients. The team’s goals include expanding the company’s MTM program to boost the number of interventions that focus on preventing or reducing drug-related risks; increasing patient knowledge about prescription and over-the-counter medications; and supporting good patient habits for them to become or stay adherent to drug regimens.
Moreover, the company is investing in upgrading its proprietary workflow technology to allow for remote data entry and problem resolution; expansion of remote quality assurance; and centralized support for other prescription filling functions.
Other technology initiatives include automation of script transfer requests, and inventory management. In addition, Rite Aid is adding two central-fill facilities, one on the West Coast and a smaller one in Ohio. The additions will complement its existing facility, which services more than 800 pharmacies. Central fill helps the company dispense maintenance medications outside the stores, freeing up in-store pharmacy teams to perform enhanced clinical services or administer immunizations, thus offering a higher level of customer service and a better customer experience. The ultimate result will be improved patient outcomes.