Ms. Sax is a freelance writer based in Chevy Chase, Maryland.
Many pharmacy students look forward to entering the world of community pharmacy. Opening your own independent pharmacy can be a daunting proposition, yet large national chains can be overwhelming in their scope.
Regional chains, with their smaller size and more closely-held management, can be the perfect choice. These chains are often able to provide their patients with professional services that larger chains cannot deliver. Pharmacists at regional chains say they can really get to know their patients and are able to become a significant part of a patient's health care team.
Many pharmacists say the smaller scale of regional pharmacy chains enables them to have more direct contact with management and have a greater impact on the day-to-day business. "As a regional chain, we offer everything that is available at the national chains, but with the caring of a small-town pharmacy," said Jodi Ristau, PharmD, vice president of pharmacy operations at Minnetonka, Minnesota?based Snyders Drug Stores. "Snyders is a leader in providing high-quality services to its patients. We encourage our pharmacists and other members of the store team to become involved in their community. By doing so, the employees feel a sense of ownership and pride in customer service, patient care, and the profession of pharmacy."
Ristau said that the 50-unit chain experiences low turnover because pharmacists feel that they are a key part of the business. "We recognize that each individual store has a unique personality, depending on the neighborhood in which it is located," she said. "We fit the personality of the pharmacists we hire to the personality of the store and the neighborhood."
Once Snyders pharmacists get to know patient needs in their particular store, the chain gives them the opportunity to pilot patient care initiatives with the aid of the upper management team. "We encourage all employees to learn, excel, and grow," said Ristau. "We promote from within whenever we can, and many of our employees at the corporate office began as cashiers when they were 16 years old."
This translates into opportunity for pharmacists, especially since the profession is valued as the keystone of the company's business. "Pharmacists report to pharmacists at our company," said Ristau. "Our current vice president of pharmacy began her career in a staff position, and our chief executive and other key executives and managers are all pharmacists."
It is no surprise that the chain places a high value on pharmacy services. "Snyders is a pharmacy-driven company focused on patient care," said Ristau. In addition to filling prescriptions, supervising and training technicians and interns, and reordering inventory and supplies, pharmacists spend much of their time counseling patients and providing professional services.
"Our pharmacists have been working with neighborhood physicians in order to educate them on medication therapy management and immunization services provided by our pharmacists," said Ristau.
Raleigh, North Carolina?based Kerr Drug is another good example of a regional drug chain that remains focused on pharmacy. The chain has differentiated itself as a health care destination.
Lori Brown, PharmD
"Kerr Drug has demonstrated commitment to customer/patient satisfaction as an absolute priority," said Lori Brown, PharmD, director of clinical operations and manager of clinical services at the chain. "We are committed to improving health outcomes related to cost, quality, and access and to further strengthen our role as an agent in leading change."
This focus extends to the chain's staff. "As a regional chain, Kerr corporate leaders make a point to visit stores with regularity and establish personal relationships with store and pharmacy associates," said Brown. "A positive attitude to do ?whatever it takes' is appreciated and emulated by associates, because it originates at the top with Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Tony Civello's hands-on leadership style. Associates at Kerr find these qualities quite refreshing and distinctive in today's marketplace."
Photos courtesy of Kerr Drug
Also distinctive at the chain is the wide range of options available to pharmacists, because the chain offers both traditional and clinical positions. At the chain's 100 retail drugstores, pharmacists are focused on prescription fulfillment and patient counseling. Pharmacists have opportunities to participate in immunization delivery, low time-density medication therapy management (MTM) services, and limited practice-based research initiatives. "Not only are Kerr pharmacists practicing disease management and patient counseling, they have demonstrated industry leadership in the development and implementation of innovative community pharmacy services for more than a decade," said Brown.
Pharmacists in the stores also identify which patients need a referral to the clinical services provided by Kerr Clinical Practices Pharmacies. In that setting, PharmD residency-trained clinical pharmacists, who are specially trained in the delivery of MTM services, immunizations, diabetes education, preventive education, and chronic disease management programs, provide more specialized direct patient care.
Kerr's clinical pharmacists evaluate patient response to medication therapy regimens, identify any problems with utilization, adverse drug reactions, interactions, duplicate therapy dose evaluation, and review cost-saving opportunities, then make recommendations that can include anything from measures to improve adherence, absorption, or efficacy, to how to decrease adverse drug events or cost.
Patients receive a personal medication record that includes the patient's drug allergies, medical conditions, and medications, along with a medication action plan detailing recommendations made by the pharmacist during the patient's MTM session. The action plan also is forwarded to the patient's primary health care provider, along with recommendations so that any follow-up can be done.
The regional chain's commitment to providing a new level of quality care has been recognized by a number of professional organizations. The Kerr Drug Clinical Team was the 2006 recipient of the prestigious American Pharmacists Association Foundation Pinnacle Award for Demonstrating Quality in the Medication Use Process. The team also was recognized as the 2007 Outcomes Pharmaceutical Health Care National MTM Provider of the Year Award. In 2008, the chain was named North Carolina Diabetes Association Provider of the Year, one of the few pharmacy-based programs recognized by the American Diabetes Association.
Kerr truly offers a unique environment where pharmacists are valued for the skills they can bring to the chain. "Kerr is successful because of many things, but none is greater than its people," said Brown. "People who are truly dedicated, who truly want to make a difference and care about doing what is right, have a big impact on the chain."