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The Case for Dietitian-Pharmacist Partnerships

Retailers are responding to time-strapped consumers by increasingly becoming one-stop shops for groceries and health-and-wellness needs, thanks in large part to an army of on-site pharmacists and registered dietitians.

Almost all stores have pharmacists on staff and 95 percent employ dietitians, according to FMI’s “2014 Report on Retailer Contributions to Health & Wellness.” Although stores use a variety of tactics to promote health-and-wellness activities, they rank in-store pharmacists and dietitians tops in terms of effectively engaging consumers.

So it’s no wonder that dietitian-pharmacist teams are on the rise. Two-thirds (67 percent) work together to develop programs and almost half (48 percent) work together to make customer-specific recommendations, according to the FMI survey, while 52 percent say they cross-refer customers/patients to each other for counsel.

Dietitians and pharmacists also work in tandem on an array of in-store and community activities, which can include health screenings, counseling sessions, and collaborations on health-related store displays and social media content.

Customer Convenience

In-store health-and-wellness services are a boon to busy consumers. “In one trip, customers can get groceries, talk to the pharmacist about a medication and ask the dietitian a related food question right in the aisle,” says registered dietitian Eileen Myers, VP of retail dietetics and nutrition solutions at The Little Clinic, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Kroger Co. The Little Clinic operates 196 clinics in 10 states under the Kroger Dillons King Soopers Fry’s and JayC banners; Cincinnati-based Kroger has more than 2 200 pharmacies enterprise-wide.

The team approach is evident at Kroger, which employs 16 dietitians at 32 stores that also include nurse practitioners and pharmacists. “It’s much more convenient to send customers to a dietitian right in the store, rather than referring them to an outside source in an office environment,” says pharmacist Stacey Frede, clinical sales manager at Kroger. Frede notes that the company’s services aren’t meant to replace more traditional forms of health care, but aim to offer an additional resource at a place shoppers are already visiting each week.

Bright Future

Retailers in the FMI survey recognize the value of providing health-and-wellness programs, with most (70 percent) viewing them as a significant business growth opportunity for the entire industry and nearly all (96 percent) saying that their companies were committed to expanding in-store programs in the future.

There’s potential to expand dietitian-pharmacist partnerships out in the community as well. “We’ve had early positive results with programs on prediabetes, diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol for employees at local companies,” notes Frede. “There are so many untapped topics such as cancer and pediatrics.”

Whether in-store or beyond, expect dietitian-pharmacy partnerships to continue filling a consumer demand. “People are interested in health and wellness, but are sometimes confused about what to do,” observes Myers. “Our teams work together to bring customers convenient, personalized health care, giving us the potential to make a greater impact. It’s a case where one plus one equals three.”

Whether in-store or beyond, expect dietitian-pharmacy partnerships to continue filling a consumer demand.

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