HEALTH TOURS BEGINNING AT G&R FELPAUSCH

HASTINGS, Mich. -- G&R Felpausch here will run experimental store tours designed to heighten the pharmacy department's profile and to position the retailer as a source of "whole health" solutions for shoppers.This Thursday, August 20, Pharmacy Director Roberta Armstrong and a dietician will lead groups of five to eight shoppers through grocery aisles at Felpausch's Jackson, Mich., store at 8 a.m.,

HASTINGS, Mich. -- G&R Felpausch here will run experimental store tours designed to heighten the pharmacy department's profile and to position the retailer as a source of "whole health" solutions for shoppers.

This Thursday, August 20, Pharmacy Director Roberta Armstrong and a dietician will lead groups of five to eight shoppers through grocery aisles at Felpausch's Jackson, Mich., store at 8 a.m., 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., examining food labels, discussing Food and Drug Administration regulations and warning of potentially harmful food-drug interactions. In a cooking demonstration, the dietician will show how to turn a high-fat, high-calorie recipe into a healthy one.

The focus of the tours will be cholesterol-level and diabetes management, Armstrong said.

"It's something we've never done before," she said. "I see it as a great way to attract new customers. Some people don't even realize we have pharmacies."

Armstrong, pointing out that the Jackson store's pharmacy already has a cholesterol-management program in place, said she was hopeful its enrollment would increase because of interest created by the tours.

"It gets people thinking that pharmacists are health care professionals and good sources of health information," she said.

Felpausch is running a second set of tours next Tuesday, Aug. 25, at its Lakeview-Battle Creek store that will focus exclusively on diabetes management, Armstrong said.

All of the tours will be free of charge to participants. Dieticians' services are being provided by the Southeastern Michigan Diabetes Outreach Network, Coldwater, Mich., and the Food for Thought Task Force of Jackson.

Ads promoting the tours on local radio, in the retailer's weekly circular and in bag-stuffer fliers are being partially underwritten by a grant from the American Pharmaceutical Association, Washington.

Armstrong said she "absolutely" wanted to continue running similar tours and would select the most successful elements of the initial tours to build on for future programs.

"I think we wanted to start small and see where the market is. This is just getting our feet wet," she said. "I would love to do it in all of our market areas."

Armstrong said Felpausch has been regularly putting its pharmacists through APhA continuing-education courses to become certified diabetes, cholesterol and asthma educators, a prelude to seeking reimbursement from customers and their insurance plans for disease-management efforts.

"We're looking forward to HCFA including pharmacists in their payment program," she said, referring to the Health Care Finance Administration. In the wake of changes brought about by the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, HCFA is weighing approval of expanded Medicare coverage of pharmacist-care services.

Armstrong said Felpausch pharmacies are "in the process right now" of billing for diabetes-and cholesterol-management services. The retailer is billing patients directly at first "to see how the acceptance is," she said, before undertaking the trickier task of navigating the insurance claim process.