20/09/2013 - 05:29

HBF keeps growing friendlier

20/09/2013 - 05:29

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HBF keeps growing friendlier
HEALTHY BUSINESS: HBF pharmacy executive manager Andrea Hoskins and Friendlies Pharmacies chemist Andrew Stent. Photo: Attila Csaszar.

Health insurer HBF is on track to grow its newly acquired Friendlies Pharmacies network to 60 stores, after becoming the parent company to the pharmacy franchise in April.

HBF pharmacy executive manager Andrea Hoskins said the insurer would soon sign-up 34 established independent pharmacies to join its stable of 26 Friendlies Pharmacies.

Ms Hoskins said HBF already had a number of stores interested in its plan to expand the franchises beyond the Perth metro area, where the existing Friendlies Pharmacies were located.

HBF's new franchise agreement means Friendlies franchisees will pay for the cost of building in-store consulting rooms, which will be used to provide new services.

The pharmacies will offer health consultation services including flu vaccinations, cholesterol checks, heart checks, blood pressure checks, nutrition advice, blood glucose monitoring, and smoking cessation programs.

"All of the services will be available to all of the community at a fee. HBF members simply get a reduced rate or a subsidised rate or a free service," Ms Hoskins said.

HBF managing director Rob Bransby said its acquisition of Friendlies chemists was part of a broader strategy by HBF to focus on illness prevention by partnering with care givers.

Instead of being the one that just paid the bills, he said, HBF wanted to help its members prevent the onset of illnesses and conditions due to lifestyle factors.

Mr Bransby said HBF offered greater value through offering its members free and discounted preventative services such as early diagnosis at Friendlies chemists, group fitness sessions and nutrition advice online.

He said such preventative measures were not aimed at reducing payouts to members, but rather about sustainability.

"In the long term it makes the whole system more sustainable. There's no business case around reduced claims cost ... because you can't measure it," Mr Bransby said.

He added that said HBF's Friendlies network would not take over services currently being provided by doctors.

"It complements the GP. That's a very, very fine line. We're not going to become doctors and we're not going to replace GPs. If there's a problem that's highlighted, it'll be 'off to the GP'," Mr Bransby said.

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