DUBLIN, Ohio — Cardinal Health is getting more media savvy.
In mid-2009, it launched an in-store digital marketing program that is making sleek, high-tech advertising and health information available to even the smallest, independently owned retail pharmacies.
The program, Pharmacy Health Network, enables pharmaceutical, over-the-counter, consumer health and other product manufacturers to run video advertisements and health education content on 32-inch, flat-panel LCD screens placed in retail pharmacies within reach of consumers.
“This is a brand-new offering that will get us into a [direct-to-consumer, audio-visual] space we were not in before,” said Jeff Foreman, vice president of strategic purchasing for Cardinal Health. “It’s a powerful, consumer-reaching [tool] that can be customized right down to the zip code.”
It’s likely the revenue will be tiny for Cardinal compared to its other services. Bigger factors for Cardinal include the renewal of a multibillion-dollar drug distribution contract with companies like American Associated Pharmacies, which happened late last year.
But the television network is indicative of the company’s efforts to get every dollar’s worth of value from its services since spinning off its medical technology business CareFusion. In recent months, Cardinal also created a new service to target mail-order pharmacies as well as supply chain management software.
Last week, Cardinal announced better-than-expected quarterly earnings. Chief Executive George Barrett said then the post-CareFusion transition was a “marathon, not a sprint,” but added: “Our overall operating performance was better than originally expected, with a number of our key initiatives already taking hold.”
Ohio-based Cardinal is providing and installing the LCD screens in pharmacies throughout the United States at no cost to the stores. Free maintenance for the LCD screens is also part of the arrangement.
Dallas-based Respario Digital Advertising Group is managing the technology and content for Pharmacy Health Network.
Aside from advertisements and consumer health information on topics such as living well and diabetes management, the network is featuring health and wellness segments produced by the NBC Digital Health Network, part of the NBC Universal Digital Media group. The network provides regular weather information from AccuWeather.com and a ticker runs sports and other general news.
Pharmacies participating in the program are able to post their own content promoting in-store sales, health screenings and community events and programs. To further target consumers, Pharmacy Health Network is placing customized racks of brochures, health information, coupons and samples in pharmacy waiting areas to build off of the video content and advertising.
Pharmacy Health Network is being offered to the more than 5,000 independent and franchised pharmacies Cardinal Health serves in the United States. So far, 700 retail pharmacies have signed on to have the screens installed, including 69 Discount Drug Mart stores. Approximately 400 screens have been installed to date, according to the company.
The network is capitalizing on the opportunity to reach consumers at the point they are making their pharmaceutical purchases.
“It’s a much more captivating, powerful tool” than the traditional circulars, fliers and TV ads, Foreman said. He touts Pharmacy Health Network as a win-win for manufacturers and retail stores, noting its potential to educate and engage consumers and position manufacturers’ products.
He declined to disclose how much Cardinal Health is investing in the program or project potential advertising revenue.
However, John H. Balch, owner and president of The PharmaCare Network, a Maryland-based health care company with four retail pharmacies, believes the network’s direct manufacturer- to-consumer marketing will help sell more products.
“It’s a great way for pharmaceutical manufacturers to get their message to consumers directly,” Balch said.
PharmaCare installed the Pharmacy Health Network last November at its newest location, a retail pharmacy housed within the Western Maryland Regional Medical Center. The company is considering adding the network to its other locations.
“It’s a great communication piece at a very low cost,” Balch said. “The [network] gave my new pharmacy the appearance that we were high-tech. The modern appeal and sound graphics are outstanding.”
In addition to the featured advertising, PharmaCare is using the Pharmacy Health Network to promote health screenings, flu vaccines, wellness programs and other activities scheduled at the pharmacy and throughout the community.