Pharmacy Success In A Shrinking Playing Field

Category: Pharmacy Success Written by Dr. Charles Shively / October 1, 2014

Do You Feel the "Caring" When Entering a Pharmacy?


It's always exciting (Yes...each of us has different endorphin "rushes" when spending time with our colleagues in pharmacy) to visit highly successful independent pharmacies which have been in existence for over 50 years.

The Marion Pharmacy in Marion, North Carolina is just an excellent example. During discussions with Tom McMahon, pharmacist and co-owner of the Marion Pharmacy, his enthusiasm for bringing quality healthcare to the Rutherford County, North Carolina area (population approximately 40,000), is well known to local residents. One can even "feel" the positive environment once inside the front door of the pharmacy...and further complimented by the smiles and welcome everyone receives from the staff...including Tom.

Located at 232 Main Street, in downtown Marion, North Carolina, this is an operation with which Tom has been involved for nearly 35 years. Thirty-five years! The original Marion Pharmacy started some 56 years ago. The success of this operation, as offered by Tom: "Is due to quick adaptation to the changing pharmacy environ and building trust with our patient/customers. In today's environment, we provide specialized counseling through medication therapy management (MTM), adherence discussions and in many cases, multiple conversations about the same topic to ensure successful healthcare delivery. Our clientele is predominantly older and many of the newer electronic communication techniques just aren't applicable. We'd like to use mobile applications with cellphones and computer tablets...but our customers would have difficulty adjusting to these approaches as they have been dependent on face-to-face or telephone conversations while seeing the same face or hearing the same voice...for tens of years."


Managing Today's Pharmacy Challenges Using Pharmacy Automation


The Marion Pharmacy is experiencing the same challenges other independent pharmacies nationwide are experiencing. Customers are being driven to mail-order by their insurance providers, generic drug prices continue to rise and the pharmacy PBM's (pharmacy benefit managers) which control reimbursement levels tied to generic and brand name drug choice are slow to adjust reimbursement levels to independent pharmacies.

Tom offered in conversation: "With our automated pharmacy dispensing system (RxMedic ADS), we have chosen to buy larger quantities of our high-volume generic drugs in anticipation of price increases to offset 4-6 week delays in patient prescription reimbursement adjustments for our generic drug costs and delivery efforts. The "supercells" in our RxMedic ADS support this approach. Each time I look at a filled prescription, as I package it for patient delivery, I immediately mentally assess whether there is a profit or loss from our filling effort. I know I am no different than every other independent pharmacist in today's environ."


Pharmacy Staff Must Be Exceptionally Competent and Current


Although the Marion Pharmacy serves customer/patients in a challenging socio-economic environment, it offers an unusual mix of healthcare professionals to serve its population of focus...through successful management of ROI (return on investment) and continual monitoring of cash flow. The Marion Pharmacy, filling approximately 400 prescriptions daily (also open on Sundays unlike many other independents), has four (4) pharmacists at the Marion Main Street store and one (1) at the new Marion Pharmacy West location. Tom was particularly pleased to offer that within the five (5) pharmacists involved at the Marion Pharmacies...three (3) had earned recent PharmD degrees and were heavily involved with medication therapy management (MTM), patient adherence issues, vaccinations and Hospice support...the "new" pharmacy practice demands.

"Insurance issues (adjudication for appropriate patient co-pay) overwhelms my ability to spend time with my patient/customers. Thank goodness we have the RxMedic ADS and the new QS/1 integrated pharmacy management operational software that offers a bi-directional interface and pharmacy workflow combination. I've involved the younger PharmD's in many of the newer pharmacy practice areas so I can continue face-to-face conversations with our longtime...loyal...customers most of whom are over 50. They expect me to be involved with their healthcare. I am... because I care...and I'm there (over 50) too. "

The pharmacists at Marion Pharmacy (Main Street) include Tom, Fred (co-owner), Kandee and Kristine. Five (5) Certified Pharmacy Technicians, four (4) Customer Service individuals, a Durable Medical Equipment (DME) Specialis (Lynn) and the overall Store Manager, Samantha Sisk, ensure continued pharmacy success. Steve is the PIC at the Marion Pharmacy West some 15 minutes away from downtown.

This is an amazing success story for independent pharmacy...with no website or mobile applications for cellphones or computer tablets. Why? As Tom offered: "We answer every call within three (3) rings. Our patient/customers like to hear our voices. They think of us as family".

The Marion Pharmacy, 232 South Main Street, Marion, North Carolina. Telephone: 828.652.4661

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Thank for sharing!

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