CUSTOMER Q&A

"The one lesson that has remained constant is the need for current and reliable data."

Mark Panzer

Senior Vice President, Pharmacy, Health & Wellness | Albertsons and NACDS Vice Chairman, 2017–2018
You have over 40 years in this industry and have built an impressive overall resume.  An MBA from Loyola, SVP of Merchandising & Advertising, SVP in real estate, EVP of Operations and then CMO for Rite-Aid, President and CEO of Pharmaca, and now Senior Vice President of Pharmacy, Health & Wellness for Albertsons where you oversee more than 1,750 pharmacies.
Let’s start with your MBA in Finance from Loyola University in Chicago.  Did you find anything special about the experience of attending a Jesuit University focused on finance? 

It was a very rewarding experience. The class size numbered about 18 students per course.  So, I enjoyed one-on-one interaction throughout my entire program.  Secondly, as you would expect, there was a very heavy emphasis on ethics woven throughout the MBA program.

You have earned a reputation as a strong supporter of pharmacy yet your background is in Operations and Merchandising. How did that come about?

I had terrific mentors during my early days at Jewel Osco in Chicago. Everyone who entered or wanted to enter the Osco Drug management training program had to go through pharmacy tech training if they were not a registered pharmacist. Training included time behind the pharmacy counter as a technician filling scripts and learning the key data elements for inventory control, scheduling, service and sales.

I learned how important the pharmacy customer is to the entire store sales. Pharmacy customers shopping at a grocery store have 2.5 to 2.8 times the average grocery basket revenue compared to the non-pharmacy grocery shopper and, of course, in a freestanding drug store format pharmacy makes up 60% to 75%. The numbers are impossible to ignore. At Jewel Osco, you were required to understand the pharmacy business.

How have the lessons learned from your responsibilities as CMO and SVP of Merchandising & Marketing as well as the position of SVP in Real Estate helped you in your current position?

The one lesson that has remained constant is the need for current and reliable data. You need to have accessible and concise reports/data to assist in the decision making process whether you are negotiating on a new site, lease renewal or working on product placement, promotions or contracts with vendors. You need to have data/reports at your fingertips all the time. Negotiating any deal or contract requires current and reliable data.

Having a trusted technology partner is incredibly important. You need a partner that has the right people, infrastructure and evolving technology solutions to continually keep your company’s system and data up to date. That’s why we selected PDX…they have a deep bench as well as systems and technology that meet our needs.

You mentioned PDX resources. I understand they have over 600 employees with over half of them software engineers.

Like I said, they have a deep bench. They offer our company dedicated development teams that we sponsor and who work on our highest priorities.  That’s like having the best developers in all of pharmacy working on your top priorities for an entire year.  Partnering with PDX has been a win/win.

You manage over 1,700 pharmacies nationwide. That’s a lot of moving parts. How does your technology partner, PDX, help you with this endeavor?

First, our roadmap changes rapidly as we acquire new businesses. That presents complex technology challenges–including data conversion, host conversions and interfaces…and those exacting data elements I mentioned being at your fingertips.  PDX offered the flexibility we needed to create the perfect Business Intelligence tool using our exact reporting requirements.

Second, PDX deployed several experts in host administration to our headquarters to quarterback the merging of data across several host systems.

Third, our technology partner must have the ability to evolve so that we maximize the potential within our business strategies by delivering the tools we need to stay current. Business Intelligence tools that deliver the right data at the right time. PDX has filled that gap for us.

I see the pharmacy environment moving into the clinical space.  How have your pharmacies addressed this challenge?

Our customers have come to rely on our pharmacists for medication advice and, of course, immunizations and other clinical services. We needed to move all of this onto a solid technology platform. Once again PDX stepped forward and allowed us to have it our way. Our clinical team required several specialized data elements that can be tied directly into the pharmacy system so our busy pharmacists don’t have to move from one system to another.

PDX organized clinical experts and software engineers to work directly with our clinical team. We are very patient-centric, forward thinking and outcomes based.  We had already developed key programs on paper that fit our practice perfectly. PDX gets it. They created a superb clinical documentation tool (Care Rx®) using mutually agreed upon, evidence-based, programs that will clearly help us move into this new space in a very competitive position.

I can’t say enough about how important it is to find the right technology partner. The right technology partner delivers the right solutions and data allowing us to focus on what we do best…serving our patients.

Tell us about yourself. How do you start your mornings?

I usually start my mornings with a workout, watch CNBC and then head to the office. Somewhere in that routine a Diet Pepsi or Dr. Pepper will be involved.

What are your favorite pastime activities?

Spending time with my wife, Jann, and my kids and most of the time…doing what they have planned.

I know baseball is one of your loves…which team?

I grew up about a mile west of Wrigley Field so the Cubs are my favorite team. It was a long wait but worth it…the World Series.

Who is the greatest baseball pitcher of all time?

I feel that Bob Gibson and Nolan Ryan were without a doubt the best pitchers of all time…fearless and threw smoke. My favorite Cubs pitcher is Fergie Jenkins.