I just got to meet Eyad Farah, B.S.Pharm., M.B.A., the new president of Health Mart. Farah is a 10-year veteran of McKesson and was named president last October. Previously, he had served as the vice president and general manager of Health Mart Atlas, McKesson’s pharmacy services administration organization (PSAO).
In making the announcement of his promotion, a McKesson press release indicated Farah would also retain his senior manager role at Health Mart Atlas. In a Drug Store News interview in October 2020, Farah explained, “The new structure is designed to enable the company’s clients to access McKesson’s offerings in a more streamlined manner.” Farah believes the future of independent retail pharmacy is positive. He says the pandemic accelerated the rate at which pharmacies have started to provide point-of-care testing and immunizations. Building on that foundation made it possible for Health Mart to contract with the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services for pharmacies to provide COVID-19 vaccinations.
One other bright spot is the recent Supreme Court ruling allowing states to take a more active role in regulating pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs). Farah says, “While this offers a positive step towards fair and transparent reimbursement, pharmacy owners and organizations still have their work cut out for them.” Finding ways to work with elected officials and regulators is still critical to continue efforts to drive transparency, as well as expanding non-DIR (direct and indirect remuneration) performance-based bonus and activity fee opportunities.
Farah joined McKesson in 2010 shortly after earning an M.B.A. from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He quickly rose through the ranks and successfully found ways to improve operations, develop new markets, and work with suppliers to increase efficiency. One major accomplishment, completed in 2018, was working with the American Pharmacy Cooperative, Inc. (APCI), a major group purchasing organization, to enter a joint venture with McKesson’s PSAO, then known as AccessHealth. The combined entity was renamed Health Mart Atlas and currently provides services to more than 7,000 pharmacies.
Despite his optimism for the future, Farah says many pharmacy owners aren’t adopting new practice procedures fast enough. One area he emphasizes is the need to adopt an omnichannel approach that includes digital communications and e-commerce capabilities. He says the pandemic clearly demonstrates the need for pharmacies to use technology that allows patients to request refills online and to understand the various ways they can get their prescription: in-store, delivery, drive-thru, or curbside pickup. Farah says websites, text messaging, and social media posting are no longer “nice to have” but are now essential for pharmacies.
Yet with all the new opportunities provided by technology, he feels there will always be people who will want to come to a physical location. Finding ways to make a pharmacy more inviting, improving the front end, providing nutritional supplements, and creating more appropriate settings to provide clinical services will be critical to the success of pharmacy. Farah believes pharmacies need to become a destination people look to for a number of healthcare services. Having a physical location supporting this is important, and one of his major goals is to help owners understand and prepare for the brighter future he believes is coming.
We ended the interview with Farah providing one final thought: “Yes, we’re at an inflection point in the industry, but I think this is an opportunity for our pharmacies. Lean in, be proactive, and embrace the change. We now have the opportunity to play a key role in the future of healthcare.” CT
Bruce Kneeland is an independent pharmacy veteran, author, and podcaster. He can be reached at BFKneeland@gmail.com and listened to at www.pharmacycrossroads.com.