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A Special Background Report on Trends in Industry and Finance

March 2, 1995

PROSPECTING FOR REVENUE, pharmacies look beyond dispensing drugs.

With insurance and other payment plans curbing prescription fees, some pharmacies are doing customer assessments and phone follow-ups to ensure that patients are sticking to a prescription’s regimen. Claxton Pharmacies, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, even increased staff technicians to do the dispensing and free up pharmacists to consult with patients. The pharmacies hope the added services will win customers and eventually become new sources of revenue.

The new services are part of a concept called pharmaceutical care, which calls for pharmacists ``to monitor, manage and enhance patient compliance with a drug therapy,″ says Lucinda Maine of the American Pharmaceutical Association in Washington. These kinds of services so far are free, but Pharmacy Care Management Group in Des Moines, a network of 450 outlets, is in talks with Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Iowa and South Dakota on a payment plan.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota reimburses some pharmacies for the new services in a three-year study.

TECHNOLOGY TALLY: Schools find they fall far short of their goals.

A computer for every five pupils is the median goal in a survey of 625 elementary-, middle- and high-school principals by American School & University magazine, Overland Park, Kan. So far, the median is one for every 10 pupils. A third of those polled also want five or more computers per classroom, an ideal that exists in only 7.4 percent of the schools. More disturbing is the lack of ``wiring infrastructure,″ says Joe Agron, AS&U’s editor. ``Schools can’t make the most of the technology they have.″

For instance, 47.5 percent of the schools said none of their classrooms had phones, which means computers can’t be linked by modem. The survey also found that a majority of classroom computers in schools are stand-alone operations, as are administrative computers. The situation is unlikely to improve, Mr. Agron says. Tight funding spurs schools to focus on getting equipment rather than building infrastructure.

STATES SEEK to cork a growing trade in direct-to-consumer shipments of wine.

Mail-order wine, beer and even whiskey become more common, riling regulators in states that ban interstate shipment of alcohol to consumers. ``The loss of tax revenue has become significant,″ says Alan Johnson of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. It issues cease-and-desist letters to mail-order advertisers in Texas publications, unless they specify that they don’t ship to the state. Florida seeks federal help in halting illegal shippers.

Many mail-order sales are legal. Thirteen states have reciprocity laws that allow shipments. Some mail-order operations work through retailers in the state, thus complying with local laws. But different state laws can be ``a tremendous problem for small wineries and breweries,″ says John Hinman, a San Francisco attorney. Mail order is an important business for small wineries, since attrition among distributors means fewer channels for their wine.

Meanwhile, on-line networks emerge as a medium for mail-order solicitation, says Wendell Lee of the Wine Institute.

ATTENTION AL GORE: A Defense Department form takes the title in the ``Worst Expense Form Contest″ run by Mobile Office magazine, New York. Form 1351-2 has small spaces, confusing directions and used a 57-digit alphanumeric accounting code, says Rich Malloy, editor in chief.

COMPARING REASONS for paring middle management, a study of 95 large companies by the Conference Board, New York, found that 77 percent of those in the U.S. say cost-cutting is their top goal. Meanwhile, the need to speed decision-making was cited most often by 68 percent of companies overseas.

WE CAN TALK, says Thomas Fuelling, president of Lawrys Foods in Los Angeles. He delivers the message in Lawrys’ voice-answering system and ends it with an invitation ``to call me personally″ if the customer hasn’t been served. He says the ploy has increased his calls only 10 percent but has garnered many compliments from clients.

AIRLINE START-UPS soar as the industry returns to profit.

Last year saw a gain of 53 airlines world-wide, more than twice the number in 1993, with 146 start-ups and 93 terminations of scheduled services, says the Reed Travel Group in Britain, which tracks airline schedules. North America alone had a gain of 13 vs. a loss of five in 1993. The U.S. accounted for most of the gain. More small carriers ``survived another year,″ a sign of stable conditions, says Reed’s Nick Bosworth, who expects to see net gains again this year.

U.S. start-ups generally were tiny regional carriers, such as AirTran Airways in Austin, Texas. But Europe, which saw a net gain of 20, had some ambitious entries like Moldavian Airlines. ``Emerging C.I.S. countries are battling hard to start new airlines to serve Eastern Europe,″ Mr. Bosworth says. Carriers in the Asia-Pacific region had a net gain of 13, up from eight.

Airlines in 1994 are expected to post a global profit of $1 billion, says the International Air Transport Association.

BRIEFS: For politeness’ sake: In places where a ringing cellular phone is unseemly, use a pager to screen calls, says Ameritech’s guide to cellular-phone etiquette. ... Literally keeping its name in front of clients, A.L.T. Advertising & Promotion sends out computer screen-savers with marketing tips like ``Advertising builds awareness.″

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