October 20, 2020

'RxEvolution': How Rite Aid wants to disrupt the traditional retail pharmacy

Daily Briefing

    Rite Aid on Wednesday provided a look into its rebrand and new strategy—including the company's revamped stores, which aim to place the pharmacist "front and center," according to Jim Peters, Rite Aid's COO.

    Toolkit: Our top resources on employee pharmacy benefit management

    Rite Aid stores—and strategy—get an overhaul

    Speaking at the HLTH 2020 virtual conference, Peters said Rite Aid's stores are getting a makeover to offer "a completely different experience than any other retail pharmacy in the market."

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    The stores will feature virtual care rooms that will allow customers to connect with care teams remotely, as well as a variety of new products, including both traditional medicine and alternative "remedies," such as essential oils, Peters said.

    The revamped stores also will feature pharmacies that look more like the Genius Bar at an Apple Store than traditional pharmacies, FierceHealthcare reports.

    Placing pharmacists 'front and center'

    According to FierceHealthcare, the change is part of Rite Aid's larger strategy overhaul, dubbed "RxEvolution," which aims to "elevat[e] pharmacists to work alongside providers and health plans to help keep patients and members healthy and connected to their care teams."

    "Pharmacists are the most under-utilized providers and can be the missing link in that last mile of health care," Peters said. He added, "Pharmacists can play a critical role in driving better health outcomes and can influence everyday choices and behaviors by reminding customers to take their medications, discuss alternative remedies to complement traditional ones, and use virtual care to connect people back to care teams."

    Rite Aid's also is helping all of its pharmacists to get certified as integrative pharmacy specialists, as the company wants them to focus on holistic health and helping customers stay healthy. However, Peters clarified that Rite Aid is not interesting in owning any primary care or specialty care clinics.

    "We're pharmacists at our core," Peters said. "We embrace that role and opportunity to connect people to a broader spectrum of therapies and services. We want to act as a connector, not a competitor to nurses and doctors [who] serve them."

    A renewed focus on its PBM

    Rite Aid also is moving forward with a renewed focus on its pharmacy benefit management (PBM) company, which it has relaunched as Elixir. "We believe it's our biggest long-term growth opportunity," Heyward Donigan, Rite Aid's CEO, said.

    Donigan added that Rite Aid will be "going after the markets where the big three [PBMs] aren't focused," referring to three of the country's biggest PBMs: Express Scripts, Caremark, and OptumRx. (Daily Briefing is published by Advisory Board, a division of Optum, which also owns OptumRx.)

    "Our most differentiated integration point is our connection to 2,400 Rite Aid stores, positioning us as the only payer-agnostic PBM with a large pharmacy footprint," Peters said. "We are uniquely positioned in the mid-market PBM space to offer a breadth of services" (Landi, FierceHealthcare, 10/15; Japsen, Forbes, 9/24).

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