Sticking to primary jobs

If a company aspires to be great at something, it probably can’t be great at everything.

Last month, the Everett Clinic announced a business decision that clearly reflected this reality. It made the choice — perhaps inducing a minor outbreak of sweats and frets among some loyal patients — to close one of its pharmacies and to sell off its other two.

A business analysis determined the pharmacy at Harbour Pointe was not well-located. The Everett Clinic pharmacies in Everett and Marysville, however, now will be operated by Bartell Drug Co.

This is a deal between two local companies that emphasize their core corporate values.

Everett Clinic’s CEO Rick Cooper has spoken publicly about his organization’s desire to foster a culture of “continued improvement.” So it is a safe bet that this decision represents a redeployment, not a retreat.

The business of selling prescription drugs has been ferociously transformed in recent years. The familiar, trusted pharmacist who welcomes customers by name as they enter a little shop on Main Street? A vanishing breed.

Not only have drugstores and chains consolidated, but great power also has shifted to a handful “pharmacy benefit managers,” Wall Street companies that administer drug benefits for health plans and insurers.

The two largest of these PBMs, Express Scripts and CVS Caremark, handle prescriptions for an estimated 60 percent of all Americans who are in managed care plans. Industry observers say small pharmacy companies are in a take-it-or-leave-it position, as PBMs control pricing and other financial policies.

As an Everett Clinic executive commented, “The way the industry has gone, you’ve got to be big.” And three pharmacies don’t make you big.

Bartell Drug Co., while no giant, is a family-owned business that operates 60 stores in western Washington. Like the Everett Clinic, it has roots in our region and a commitment to the well-being of our communities.

If you had clicked on Bartell’s web page on the day the sales were announced, you would have seen a promo for Food Lifeline’s food drive. The company’s charitable and public education efforts benefit Salvation Army, the Washington Poison Center, Pacific Science Center and World Vision, to name a few.

These community values (along with the added convenience of using the same patient-coordination software) made Bartell’s the best option among the interested buyers, a statement from the Everett Clinic explained.

At first examination, it appears the Everett Clinic has made an appropriate choice.

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