GRAND RAPIDS — Spectrum Health’s venture to co-brand medications sold at West Michigan Meijer Inc. stores aims to make it easier for patients to find the help they need when they’re sick.
Chief Strategy Officer Roger Jansen cites the example of a parent wandering aimlessly up and down store aisles trying to figure out which medication to get for a son or daughter’s cough or cold. By partnering with Meijer, Spectrum Health doctors can recommend patients buy and use specific over-the-counter medications.
“We can make it easier for them to select something that is appropriate for their condition or their symptoms,” Jansen said. “It’s a practical thing. We’re already telling people to do these things. We should have a line (of products) that we believe in and a level of advocacy of the drugs that we have confidence in. If we’re going recommend those, let’s make sure our name’s on them to make it easier.”
Spectrum Health and Meijer recently started selling 22 co-branded, over-the-counter (OTC) medications at 23 stores in 13 counties in West Michigan that correlate with the health system’s geographic market.
The medications carrying both Meijer and Spectrum Health logos are displayed on shelves near the pharmacy counters at the stores. They include pain and allergy relievers, cough and cold medicines, an antibiotic ointment, a sleep aid, and vitamins and supplements.
“Spectrum Health is an outstanding health care provider in West Michigan and this product launch provides yet another option for us as we strive to provide healthy living solutions for our customers,” Jason Beauch, vice president of pharmacy merchandising for Meijer, said in a recent announcement of the partnership.
A Meijer spokesman could not say whether the Grand Rapids-based retailer may use the partnership as a model for similar ventures with care providers in its other markets in the Midwest.
Meijer operates more than 230 stores in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Wisconsin.
“We don’t know yet. What we’re doing is offering customers in this 13-county region another option for an over-the-counter product line,” said Joe Hirschmugl, a public relations manager at Meijer. “This is something we’ll try out and see.
“We’re excited to see where it goes from here.”
Many of the OTC products sold in the venture are produced by Allegan-based Perrigo Co. plc and are the most frequently purchased OTC medications, Jansen said. Spectrum Health doctors helped to select which medications would carry the health system’s label. The organization is already looking to add more, Jansen said.
“If this gains momentum, we already have another pipeline of what we’d like to put out there,” he said.
Nationally, the sale of OTC medications generated $34 billion in retail sales in 2016, according to the Consumer Healthcare Products Association. That’s up nearly 6 percent from 2015 and more than double the retail sales volume for OTC medications as recently as 2008.
Meijer and Spectrum Health intend to split any earnings from the co-branded sales. Spectrum Health’s cut will go to support Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, although the health system does not consider the venture as a way to make money.
“We’re not looking to this to generate cash flow,” Jansen said.
By partnering with Meijer to co-brand medications, Spectrum Health can further its brand in the West Michigan market, where the health system is the largest care provider and has more than 3,200 doctors and advanced practitioners.
Spectrum Health does not intend to expand the venture to other retailers in its market, Jansen said. The deal with Meijer is an exclusive arrangement, he added.
The venture fits into a broader strategy at Spectrum Health to go beyond providing clinical care and become what Jansen has called a “health company” that “extend(s) ourselves beyond the visit and making sure people know we’re there around their health and wellness needs, not just around their sick needs.”
“So we want to make sure we’re extending our reach into other spaces and other products that aren’t just about the diagnosis but also are about their lifestyle, and living well and living healthy, or taking care of the minor ailments they may face on a day-to-day basis,” he said.
Under the strategy, Spectrum Health opened Strive this summer in downtown Grand Rapids, as MiBiz previously reported. Strive offers a care model that mixes wellness with traditional primary care delivered in a uniquely non-traditional setting and charges members an annual $159 membership fee.
“We think that not just Spectrum, but for the entire U.S. health system, it’s always been about injury and illness,” Jansen said. “We think it also needs to include health and wellness, so this is definitely another step in that direction to make sure people see us not just as a care company but as a health company. There are things that we can do when you’re not in our office.”