At its IdeaShare 2015 conference in San Diego in June, McKesson named four recipients to its Pharmacy of the Year award. McKesson recognized the retail independent pharmacies for their innovative business practices that help improve the health of their customers and, at the same time, the pharmacies' own business health.

The honorees offer important lessons for other retail pharmacies that want to improve their clinical and financial performance at a time of increasing competition from pharmacy chains. Below are four lessons, one from each of the Pharmacy of the Year recipients.

Lesson 1: Launch a pharmacy-related service not currently available in your immediate market
From: Marble City Health Mart Pharmacy in Sylacauga, Ala.

Marble City has worked to improve the health of customers who need home infusion therapy services and supplies. Local patients prescribed that drug regime historically had to drive nearly 50 miles to Birmingham, Ala., for what they needed. The distance was too far for many patients, whose subsequent deteriorating medical condition often led to avoidable and costly hospital readmissions. In 2014, Marble City launched Marble City Vital Care, its own home infusion therapy service and supply business. Access to those services and supplies increased patient adherence and reduced the rate of avoidable readmissions to local hospitals. A coincidental yet welcome business benefit has been an increase in the number of traditional prescriptions filled from new patients cared for by physicians new to the pharmacy because of Marble City Vital Care.

Lesson 2: Expand vaccine programs beyond the four walls of your pharmacy to serve new customers
From: The Prescription Shop Health Mart Pharmacy in Montebello, Calif.

The Prescription Shop has improved the health of customers who had limited access to routine vaccines by immunizing them from communicable diseases and seasonal viruses. Access was limited for certain customers in two ways. One was physical --the customer was not physically able to get to the pharmacy because their mobility was limited or they lacked transportation. The other was cultural, meaning language barriers prevented them from understanding the health benefits of routine vaccines. In response, The Prescription Shop started a travel immunization program that administers vaccines in customers' homes. The pharmacy also added signage in Spanish to more effectively communicate vaccine information to the store's Spanish-speaking customers. The additional opportunities to administer vaccines have led to relationships with new customers and additional revenue for the pharmacy from increased sales of traditional products and services.

Lesson 3: Use data-driven, real-time customer medication profiles to build your MTM program
From: Towncrest Health Mart Pharmacy in Iowa City, Iowa

Towncrest has improved the health of their customers through medication therapy management, or MTM. Doing so was a challenge because of the transient nature of many customer-pharmacy transactions --a situation exacerbated by competition from three chain pharmacies in walking distance from Towncrest's front door. The pharmacy needed an edge, and it came in the form of a home-grown software system called Pharmclin. The system builds and maintains real-time, clinical records of customers' medication use which enables continuous medication monitoring by the pharmacy. The system is fed by e-prescriptions from providers, data from drug dispensing systems, patient health data from their EHRs and patient interaction information entered by the pharmacists themselves. The system allows the pharmacy to intervene at any hint of trouble, ranging from a prescription not being  filled to potential misuse of a high-risk medication. Towncrest has used the system to build relationships with customers that help improve their health and Towncrest's business.

Lesson 4: Reach out to local post-acute care facilities whose patients would benefit from your medication compliance program
From: First State Health Mart Pharmacy in Wilmington, Del.

First State pharmacy was helping to improve the health of customers by extending its medication compliance program to post-acute care settings in its service area. The program uses a Parata PASS automated system to dispense a patient's medications in one synchronized package to improve adherence. First State hired a sales person to call physicians with patients in post-acute care settings and on post-acute care facilities directly. First State pharmacists also met with local home-health agencies, discharge planners and social workers to raise awareness of its medication compliance program available to post-acute care patients. The effort has generated compliance program contracts with two assisted living facilities that have improved the medication adherence rates of the facilities' residents and provided the pharmacy with a new revenue stream from new patients and referrals.

“All of our winners are dedicated to providing their customers with extraordinary service that also improves patient care and shows why community pharmacies continue to thrive,” said McKesson's U.S. Pharmaceutical President Mark Walchirk in announcing the recipients at the IdeaShare event.

How is your independent pharmacy innovating to deliver exceptional patient service while lowering business costs?  Share your questions and ideas with us below.


About the author

McKesson editorial staff is committed to offering innovative approaches and insights so that our customers can get the most out of the health care solutions they have and identify areas for operational improvement, revenue growth and improved patient satisfaction. If you have a suggestion for a blog topic you’d like to see covered, let us know in the comments.