Larry Irwin, pharmacist-owner of the Elk Pharmacy in Elkin, North Carolina is a successful independent pharmacy owner. This pharmacy has been in the Irwin family for 75 years. Yes, the pharmacy began in 1939, located in downtown Elkin on...as you might expect...Main Street. Where were you in 1939?
The central source for healthcare in a community of so me just 4200 community residents, Larry and his staff (pharmacists Susan, Jason, Jill, and Harriett) with seasoned pharmacy technicians Sandra, Lois, Brenda, Diane, Janet, Bekah, Joanne and Jordon fill up to 600 prescriptions a day with Roberta...the human robotic resource RxMedic automated dispensing system. While visiting the Elk Pharmacy recently as part of the RxMedic Customer Appreciation Tour...and as you might anticipate...Roberta typically "sings" with excitement about supporting the community's prescription needs. "With the new role of pharmacists being actually insurance-adjusters...due to continuing prescription-payor challenges... Roberta is a major resource for our efforts. She gives us time to complete sometimes lengthy investigations of insurance rejections for our life-time patient-customers. Even Roberta senses our stress and pressure to do more sometimes...she wants to fill faster."
Seem odd that a seasoned group of pharmacists at Elk Pharmacy think of Roberta as a human resource? Actually, these folks are no different than the many other pharmacists and owners with which I have visited during this RxMedic Customer Appreciation Tour. Creating efficiencies in the traditional pharmacy workflow process and allowing time for other new pharmacist and pharmacy technician daily work assignments has allowed time to do more....which is now demanded with new pharmacy challenges. How is your pharmacy dealing with the increased time challenges pharmacists are experiencing today?
Larry offered "We're spending time trying to assess the potential impact of these new pharmacy-accountability elements on our Elk Pharmacy ROI. The CMS Star-Rating system for pharmacy performance, in my view, for my community clientele, actually turns out to be a documentation exercise...we are already active with patient medication adherence and medication therapy management efforts for our predominantly aged population with chronic illness(es). Naturally, to ensure continued reimbursement through our PBM's and the corresponding insurance payors for our Medicare population, we need be proactive to support our CMS Star Rating efforts".
When asked about how eMobility (smartphone, tablet and healthcare applications) might help further support the ROI success for delivering healthcare in Elkin, NC, a new consideration for its value in pharmacy was offered by pharmacist Larry: " My patient/customer base, in this rural area, would have difficulty using eMobility and the new healthcare applications for smart phones and tablets unless a significant behavior adjustment/education effort was implemented by my staff. Our folks like to come into the pharmacy, speak to a human being and experience our face-to-face involvement with their healthcare needs. The Tri-County area we are in (Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina) values our human approach to their healthcare needs. We must of course continue to stay current with the best approaches to meet our community needs, but any sudden adjustment to the way in which we deliver healthcare would greatly aggravate our area residents".
With the rapid, ever-changing pharmacy environment, most independent pharmacy owners with whom discussions have occurred during this RxMedic Appreciation Tour have offered the current reimbursement system is challenging their survival. This, coupled with continually having to "grocery shop" for best generic drug prices to ensure a small profit on filled prescriptions following prescription adjudication, are current big challenges. A final thought by Larry related to the Pharmacy Benefit Manager (PBM) any pharmacy uses: "The PBM we use is critical to our current success and ROI. Rapid response to adjustments in generic drug pricing is our biggest concern to PharmacyUp®. We recently changed our PDM so Roberta, our Automated Dispensing System, can fill faster. She is keeping us in the game."
The Elk Pharmacy. 116 East Main Street, Elkin, NC. Zip Code 28621. www.mygnp.com Telephone: 336.835.2621