BALL'S TO USE PHARMACY STUDENTS

CHICAGO -- Ball's Food Stores, Kansas City, Kan., will use pharmacy students this summer to help drive pharmacy traffic into the rest of the store, said Michael Halliwell, director of pharmacy. He spoke during the Food Marketing Institute Show, co-located here with the FMI Pharmacy Show last week.Beginning in June, the 29-store chain operating 16 pharmacies, will use teams of pharmacy externship students

CHICAGO -- Ball's Food Stores, Kansas City, Kan., will use pharmacy students this summer to help drive pharmacy traffic into the rest of the store, said Michael Halliwell, director of pharmacy. He spoke during the Food Marketing Institute Show, co-located here with the FMI Pharmacy Show last week.

Beginning in June, the 29-store chain operating 16 pharmacies, will use teams of pharmacy externship students in the new program, which keys on food as a point of difference for supermarket pharmacies. "We talked about how to differentiate ourselves in the marketplace from the traditional drug stores. We need to take advantage of the fact that we are in a food store," Halliwell said.

The pharmacy students will mine store databases for patient and customer loyalty information to help registered dieticians, already on staff, create marketing programs to reach out to patients dealing with particular health problems, he said.

For example, a customer picking up medication for high blood pressure or diabetes could be offered information on recommended dietary foods found in other store departments. Pharmacy students in their last year of school are required to do an externship for four to six weeks outside of school, Halliwell explained. They will also assist pharmacists.

Ball's has built strong affiliations with pharmacy schools in its area to provide this uniquely qualified workforce, he said. "This is a workforce of people who are going to be graduating from pharmacy school in this upcoming year that are clinically based, that have great information, and can do a lot of data mining for us."

Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, retailers can't target customers with direct-mail pieces based on patient information, Halliwell explained. Yet through face-to-face interactions, pharmacists can offer customers any information they need.

More one-on-one time with customers takes place in the pharmacy than in other store departments, Halliwell said.

Other supermarket pharmacies have used their residency programs to enhance their customer services. Ukrop's Super Markets, Richmond, Va., spoke at the FMI Pharmacy Conference last year about its use of pharmacy residents to help develop patient care initiatives.