Pharmacy Product Managers Want To Become Care Providers

Can drug stores transform themselves into a health care destination?
Can drug stores transform themselves into a health care destination?
Image Credit: Mike Mozart

I’m pretty sure that we all make use of the drug stores that are in our area. The big chains, like Walgreens and CVS seem to be just about everywhere. For the past few years the product managers at the big drug store chains have been struggling. More and more people have been ordering what they need online and are no longer making the trip to their stores. What these product managers need is a new way to get people to want to come to their stores. They think that they’ve come up with an idea that just might work. If they are successful, going to the drug store may become a common practice for all of us.

A New Idea For Drug Stores

Product managers at America’s two biggest pharmacy chains are attempting to reverse their sagging fortunes by transforming their product into go-to treatment centers for people with chronic illnesses. CVS and Walgreens are remodeling hundreds of their stores into medical-service centers that will be targeted at customers with chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes and hypertension. The product manager’s goal is to make customers just as likely to stop in for medicine, consultations and lab tests as a candy bar.

The need for this type of service urgent. Drug store product managers are under tremendous pressure to find new ways to counter slowing revenue from prescription drugs, which currently drive the bulk of their sales. Drug-pricing pressure isn’t letting up on product managers. Product managers at both companies are getting hurt as generic-drug makers scale back price cuts and pharmacy-benefit managers squeeze pharmacies across the board on both their generic and brand-name drugs.

Meanwhile, product managers are looking at more and more competition from Amazon’s foray into prescription-drug sales. Amazon bought online pharmacy PillPack for about US$1 billion. This factored into CVS’s decision to acquire Aetna. It’s becoming clear that the drugstores that we are used to knowing will not be the store of the future. What this means for the drug store product managers is that they have change. However, previous attempts to remake the drugstore concept with in-store medical services have had mixed results. Product managers are focused on a challenge that has long frustrated the broader U.S. health-care system: finding ways to get patients with chronic diseases to take better care of themselves.

A New Approach To Health Care

Drug store product managers understand that they have a potentially huge market. Right now roughly 60% of Americans have at least one chronic condition and four in 10 adults have more than two. The opportunity to provide health care services is presenting itself because many patients have trouble taking their medicines as prescribed and slip back into poor health habits or go untreated until they end up having to go to the emergency room.

Product managers at CVS and Walgreens believe that their vast networks, the ease of access and the data they collect on pharmacy customers make them uniquely positioned to help those with chronic conditions comply with their treatment plans. What they can offer is bringing more health services to a more convenient location that doesn’t disrupt a customer’s day and has a consumer bent to it. The gains for the product managers could be big in getting people needing costly medicines to actually fill their prescriptions. The CVS product managers could leverage Aetna’s insurance savings from reduced health-care costs. For both pharmacy chains, the results of offering such services could help them increase both prescription income and foot traffic to stores.

Although drug store product managers may have big dreams, they also need to understand that there are a lot of obstacles. One of the biggest is getting customers to take the drugstore chains seriously as health-care providers. The product managers believe that current solutions aren’t working. CVS product managers see roughly 1,000 of its more than 9,800 retail stores becoming bigger hubs, offering a range of medical services, while Walgreens product managers envision a similar setup for about 1,500 of its 9,600 U.S. locations. Those locations have the possibility of anchoring a broader network of more traditional drugstores that will be tweaked to focus more on health and less on traditional retail.

What All Of This Means For You

Drug store product managers are facing a number of different challenges. Their primary source of income, prescription drugs, are decreasing in value as drug providers remove discounts and insurance programs start to make drugs more costly. Add to this the arrival of Amazon’s prescription drug program and all of sudden these product managers realize that they have a real problem on their hands.

In order to deal with the challenges that they are facing, drug store product managers are thinking about reinventing themselves. They know that many of their customers have chronic medical conditions that they may not be tending to correctly. If the drug store chains can start to become a health care destination for their customers, then they can help meet their medical needs. However, they may be facing a challenge in getting their customers to take them seriously as a health care provider.

The drug store product managers are correct in understanding that something has to change. They understand that their customers are facing a number of health-related challenges that they are not handling well by themselves. If the drug store product managers can get their customers to view them as being a partner in their journey to becoming healthier, then they just might have found a way to keep their stores open and boost their bottom line.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: What will it take to get customers to come to a drug store for medical help?

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