Shoppers Drug Mart was the recipient of the Employer Award (1,000+ employees) for Benefits Canada’s 2011 Workplace Health & Benefits Awards.

When Shoppers Drug Mart (SDM) set out to review its benefits program in 2009, it quickly became apparent that the company had a galvanizing opportunity to do something that had never been done before. The company realized that as Canada’s leading retail drugstore chain, it has a priceless resource in its existing pharmacy expertise—including formulary design, specialty pharmacy, reimbursement assistance, patient care and chronic conditions management—that could be harnessed for the health and wellness of its own employees.

Basil Rowe, vice-president, total rewards and shared services with SDM, was excited by the possibilities. “We wouldn’t have had that particular line of sight if not for being here at Shoppers Drug Mart,” he says. “But here, people understand the role of carriers, adjudicators, consultants and pharmacists, and we realized that we could use our strengths as a pharmacy business to design a leading-edge benefits plan to improve the health of our employees and their family members.”

Approaching the idea from the perspective of a plan sponsor, SDM put together a cross-functional team within the organization—including input from pharmacy, HR, procurement, operations, marketing, analytics and finance—which built and designed the new plan that launched in January 2011.

The new plan integrates three components to better manage costs and improve health outcomes for employees: formulary solutions, wellness solutions and chronic care management solutions. After just four months, the impact was already apparent.

Overall drug expenditures per claim fell by more than 10%, driven by improved generic penetration and restrictions on non-prescription products. Results for Ontario claims, where SDM was the primary payer, showed that the drug plan’s costs decreased by close to 15%, and generic penetration was up by 8% after just six months. The workplace wellness program’s early results are also impressive. More than 80% of employees completed the health risk assessment (HRA), and more than 300 people across the organization are participating in mentored and self-help programs. As well, about a dozen employees with diabetes enrolled in the diabetes management program.

“Reinvesting savings on the drug side into health and wellness is the cornerstone of the new plan,” Rowe says. “Our high participation rates with the HRA and the selfhelp programs show that our employees understand and that they are committed. As a large retailer, we are focused on customer loyalty and satisfaction. We were just as determined to make sure that our new benefits plan was a positive experience for our employees—we want them to be partners in maintaining and improving their health and wellness.”

Now that SDM has built its innovative and holistic plan, the Shoppers Drug Mart Health Solutions Team is working with other plan sponsors to demonstrate how pharmacy services can help improve the health and wellness of employees. “This isn’t just a plan design but a way to demonstrate and provide evidence that it works,” Rowe explains. “Behaviours are already changing in our organization, and we believe there are additional opportunities to incorporate more professional services at the pharmacy.”

Sonya Felix is a freelance writer based in St. Catharines, Ont.

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Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. This article first appeared in Benefits Canada.

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