Maximizing RD role vs. Pharmacists

Maximizing RD role vs. Pharmacists

September 18, 2019
Al Heller
Career Development

By Al Heller, Contributing Editor,

Retail dietitians and pharmacists bring distinct nutrition and medicinal services to supermarkets that raise their value as better-for-you destinations.

Both are credentialed healthcare specialists who’ve earned authority to speak compellingly with customers about issues they face – dietitians with food and pharmacists with medications.  Each has a professional lane the other should respect without encroaching on the other, especially when collaborating to benefit customers who need advice in both areas.

RDBA has written previously about building a food and pharmacy bridge to help optimize customer health.  In this story, RDBA underscores why having both healthcare professionals on more equal footing delivers greater value to customers and stores. 

Retail dietitians are the best trained to point people the right way nutritionally, while pharmacists know drug and herbal products best.  When both sources are independent voices that collaborate to serve customers, stores gain the force of two credible experts to optimize eating habits and counsel on health conditions involving food and medication regimens. Customers become dependent on the insights of both as they face continually evolving food and health issues in their lives.

A CVS Health initiative appears to honor separate professional lanes – and prod supermarkets to make their own dietitians more prominent.  The retail pharmacy giant aims to “transform the consumer health experience [and] connect with people in their communities,” said Alan Lotvin, M.D., chief transformation officer for the chain. Its new HealthHUB format devotes more than 20% of space to numerous health services, including one-on-one and group counseling delivered by an in-store dietitian, wellness rooms for events such as nutrition seminars and benefits education, and access to weight loss programs.  All this, in a chain that already employs pharmacists throughout its 9,900 stores. The HealthHUB pilot began nine months ago in three stores in Houston. CVS now plans to operate the format in more Houston sites plus Atlanta, Philadelphia, southern New Jersey and Tampa by year-end, and in 1,500 locations by the end of 2021.  

Especially with this competition ahead, supermarket operators shouldn’t be tempted to blur professional lines by having pharmacists dispense advice on diet, or by having dietitians report to pharmacist-managers.  Pharmacists lack the specific food insights to be as effective as dietitians, and they already cope with a complex healthcare scene, insurance issues and regulatory compliance on their side of the counter.