INNOVATION, COMMUNITY COME TOGETHER IN REGIONAL CHAINS

Elizabeth S. Roop
Published Online: Saturday, September 1, 2007
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NESTLED SOMEWHERE BETWEEN the intimacy of an independent pharmacy and the fast-paced appeal of a national chain lies the regional chain, where a pharmacist can thrive in an environment that blends the best of both worlds.

?We are small enough to be nimble and offer our pharmacists opportunities to advance at a greater speed, while being large enough to be as innovative and supportive as a much larger organization,? said Frank Scorpiniti, vice president of pharmacy operations, Longs Drugs. ?As a regional chain, Longs manages the enterprise like the nationals, but serves our patients and customers like a local neighborhood drugstore.?

Longs, based in Walnut Creek, Calif, has more than 500 stores in California, Hawaii, Washington, Nevada, Colorado, and Oregon. It typifies the regional chain by offering a combination of convenience services like photo and cosmetics, with a traditional customer-based pharmacy service and innovations like pharmacy benefit management and prescription drug plans for Medicare beneficiaries through its RxAmerica subsidiary.

Patient counseling and education programs are points of pride for Longs, and it willingly invests in the training, technology, and facilities pharmacists need to focus on meeting the needs of their patients.

For example, the company has expanded its call center to provide enhanced support for clinical management, specialty pharmacy, and third-party and store services. Longs also has a fully developed pharmaceutical supply chain that provides for self-distribution of pharmaceuticals.

?Pharmacists play an important role in health care, and face-to-face interactions with patients are a very important part of that role. It is this philosophy that drives our initiatives around increasing our utilization of technology, such as in-store robotics and central fill facilities. Our goal is to provide pharmacists more time to do what they do best?counsel and educate their patients and perform medication therapy management,? said Scorpiniti.

Another regional chain, Snyders Drug Stores, with more than 1400 employees in 70 corporate-owned stores and 45 independently owned stores in Minnesota, Montana, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, and Michigan, also places a primary focus on pharmacy and pharmacy patients.

In-store services, such as photo and postal services, are conveniences for its customers, but the pharmacy is the heart of the operation. In addition to the traditional pharmacy offerings, Snyders holds educational seminars on disease state management and ?brown bag? medication reviews, as well as offers specialized services such as immunizations, home health care supplies, diabetic shoe clinics, and diabetic meter day events.

?At Snyders, the pharmacy is the focus of the business, not ?next to the produce section or the tire section.? The pharmacy department and our pharmacy patients are our main focus and account for the majority of our sales,? said Jodi Robinson, PharmD, director of pharmacy operations for Snyders. ??Snyders is a pharmacy-driven company that supports the professional practice of pharmacy. Our principal business is pharmacy. Pharmacists are involved in the decision-making process that affects our patients and our employees.?

That kind of pharmacist-centric philosophy and dedication to the communities it serves can be seen throughout the organization. Each store has its own personality that fits the neighborhood it serves. That individual approach comes through in the pharmacists hired, the services offered, and even the hours of operation.

Snyders utilizes state-of-the-art technology, including automatic inventory replenishment systems, interactive voice response systems, and online and automatic refill services.

?These advances in technology help to reduce the risk of errors, but more importantly, they free up the pharmacists in order for them to spend more time focusing on patient care and counseling,? said Robinson.

As further evidence of its dedication to quality patient education and counseling, Snyders has added private patient counseling rooms to select store locations. Pharmacists also work with local physicians to educate them on the medication therapy management and immunization services provided in the stores.

?As a regional chain, Snyders offers everything that is available at the national chains, but with the caring of a small-town pharmacy. Snyders? employees have the opportunity to pilot patient care initiatives in their stores and the support and aid of the upper management team,? said Robinson. ??Our employees are our most valuable asset.?

Because they place such a high value on pharmacists and because the success of the individual pharmacist can impact every facet of the business, regional chains typically focus on finding the right individuals to fit both the corporate philosophy and the community in which they will work.

For those who fit the bill, regional chains will provide the kind of long-term support for personal and professional development that will keep their pharmacists happy, productive members of the company family for a long time.

?Longs has been a pillar in the communities we serve for almost 70 years,? continued Scorpiniti. ?We welcome all new Longs pharmacists to a company with a rich history based on our tradition of caring for our communities and our patients. Our history has been enriched by our pharmacists, many of them serving their communities for more than 25 years.?

To maintain that rich tradition, Longs offers a comprehensive benefits package that includes retirement plans and an employee discount, new pharmacist training programs, and leadership opportunities throughout the company.

For example, while many pharmacists start out as a pharmacy manager, which could lead to pharmacy area supervisor and regional pharmacy manager, ?it doesn?t stop there, because Longs offers opportunities in many facets of the organization. There are a multitude of opportunities, and we encourage our pharmacists to pursue their areas of interest,? said Scorpiniti.

Part of that encouragement comes in the form of programs and classes to keep pharmacists up to date on the latest processes and technologies and to advance their scope of pharmacy, including certifications in pharmacy-administered immunizations and education in various disease states.

Snyders also focuses on providing its pharmacists with the tools and support they need to pursue the career path of their choosing, starting with a comprehensive benefits package that includes company-paid professional liability insurance and membership cost-sharing for state and national pharmacist association dues.

We believe in retaining professional pharmacists, managers, and associates by providing a competitive compensation package and creating a wholesome, safe work environment. Our pharmacists are encouraged to manage their pharmacies as their own. Feedback and ideas provided by our employees are important. We encourage high expectations and set high standards; we strive to achieve both,? said Colleen Bracy, Snyders? director of human resources. As a result, Snyders enjoys an extremely low turnover rate, with many employees having been with the company for more than 20 years.

?We encourage all our employees to learn, excel, and grow,? said Bracy. ?We promote almost exclusively from within, so this is the place to start.?



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