For Northwell employees, the drugs are in the mail

House call: The Northwell Health system's 66,000-plus employees can now have their prescription medications delivered through the U.S. mail.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

Good news for Northwell Health employees, who can now receive their prescription medications through the mail.

Vivo Health Pharmacy, a specialty drug dispensary operated by the New Hyde Park-based health system, on Tuesday announced the launch of an innovative prescription-med mail-order program. While certain Northwell Health patients have enjoyed that benefit for some time, the new program makes mail-order prescriptions available to all Northwell Health employees.

That’s a fairly substantial undertaking: The health system is New York State’s largest private employer, with more than 66,000 workers on the payroll.

Starting Aug. 1, those employees – at least, those in “eligible medical insurance plans,” according to the health system – can have their prescription medications delivered through the U.S. mail, instead of having to pick them up at Vivo Health pharmacies or other retail pharmacies.

Those employees will still have the option of picking up their prescriptions themselves at more than 60,000 participating pharmacies nationwide, according to Northwell Health.

To accommodate the new program, the health system has ended a longstanding prescription-fulfillment agreement with Missouri-based provider Express Scripts, a streamlining effort projected to save the health system about $12 million per year.

Onisis Stefas: Efficiency through automation.

The idea, according to Onisis Stefas, Northwell Health’s chief pharmacy officer, is to deliver “a higher quality of care” for those tens of thousands of health system employees by automating prescription-management services and bringing them “under the Northwell umbrella.”

“The new facility will allow for the highest level of accuracy through automation,” Stefas said Tuesday, adding faster delivery options will also “ensure anyone suffering from a chronic medical condition never has to worry about running out of a potentially life-saving drug.”

That’s the main thrust of Vivo Health’s new 15,000-square-foot fulfillment facility in Great Neck, which was “designed with efficiency in mind,” according to Northwell Health. Among other advanced technologies, the distribution center is stocked with customized software, “pharmacy robots” and other “smart shipping solutions” designed to automatically and accurately prepare more than 340 different medications for distribution, and to ship out as many as 500 prescriptions per day.

In addition to the new fulfillment facility, Vivo Health – a fully accredited “specialty pharmacy,” a designation bestowed by the nonprofit Utilization Review Accreditation Commission upon less than 1 percent of all U.S. pharmacies – operates eight brick-and-mortar pharmacies at Northwell Health locations across New York State, as well as a 24-hour clinical call center.

The “specialty” designation indicates that Vivo Health is qualified to service patients suffering from “complex and chronic diseases,” according to Northwell Health, and to dispense medications that “can be complicated to adhere to, difficult to access and expensive.”

Noting Vivo Health has been providing on-site and mail-order pharmacy services to Northwell patients for several years, Northwell Health Chief Operating Officer Mark Solazzo heralded the new employee benefit as a victory for automation and efficiency.

“With this robotic pharmacy technology and automated shipping services, we’re now able to offer the same high level of mail-order prescription services to our own 66,000 employees,” Solazzo, also a Northwell Health executive vice president, said in a statement.