Jennifer Palazzolo, RPh, the owner of Flatirons Family Pharmacy in Longmont, Colorado, and a graduate of St John’s University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Queens, New York, said that “pharmacy is all I know.” 

At 14 years of age, she started stocking shelves at an independent pharmacy in her hometown of Long Beach, New York, and she never looked back. She worked there through college, then accepted a position out of state with a chain. After almost 13 years in the chain world, Palazzolo briefly worked in an independent setting before deciding to open her own pharmacy.

The tagline at Flatirons is “Not your traditional pharmacy.” Although the staff offers traditional services, such as free home delivery and compliance packaging, it is expanding their clinical services.

“A major focus over the last year has been expanding the concept of functional medicine, wellness, and the services that can provide the outcome of health and well-being to everyone who wants it,” Palazzolo said.

Working with a lab focused on hormones, Flatirons offers patient consults during which she reviews symptoms with the patient and orders tests. The patient then returns to meet with Palazzolo or her clinical pharmacist, Rodney Diffendaffer, RPh, to review recommendations, such as the addition of hormone therapy and/or supplements. In addition to hormone testing, the pharmacists are certified in pharmacogenomics and perform consults and testing. Because Palazzolo has established strong relationships with providers in the community, her staff is often able to send recommendations based on this testing to providers and get treatment started when a prescription is needed from a medical provider. She is passionate about making sure that pharmacists are viewed as a valuable part of the patient’s health care team. Palazzolo also offers point-of-care testing for flu and strep and has a collaborative agreement with several physicians to prescribe on the spot when a patient has a positive test result.

Compounding was entirely new to her when she opened the pharmacy, “but having a niche is an absolute necessity as an independent pharmacy,” Palazzolo said.

Flatirons offers both animal and human nonsterile compounding.

“We have had some fun patients: a bearded dragon and a steer,” Palazzolo said.

As for humans, Flatirons has been able to help patients with allergies by compounding products that do not contain corn, dairy, gluten, or soy, as well as creating special formulations for patients with special needs. Through compounding, the staff members have become known as problem solvers in the community. Palazzolo credits her director of compounding, Derrick Waller, PharmD, with the excellent quality of the products the pharmacy produces. She calls him the brains behind their compounding department.

In addition to basic immunizations, the pharmacy offers a travel health clinic and plans to increase its marketing efforts. Flatirons plans to offer travel consults using a platform with Travel Care International, which will allow it to recommend and provide necessary vaccines, with the provider’s approval. These will be appointment-based, cash-pay services, “something that can help us offset poor reimbursements and [direct and indirect remuneration] fees,” Palazzolo said.

Flatirons is part of the Flip the Pharmacy Initiative and the Community Pharmacy Enhanced Services Network Colorado, and Palazzolo is a Community Pharmacy Enhanced Services Network luminary. Working on providing expanded reimbursed clinical services, such as diabetes self-management, is integral to the program.

Palazzolo is proud that her pharmacy works with the Colorado Department of Health’s Drug Take-Back program and is registered with the Drug Enforcement Administration so that it can take controlled substances into its receptacle, as well.

“We help keep controlled substances from being diverted,” Palazzolo said.

To make patients feel welcome, she carefully selected an inviting and warm decor. Patients enjoy relaxing in the massage chair next to the fireplace and sipping complimentary coffee while waiting for prescriptions.

Palazzolo’s goal is “always getting our patients, both human and animals, exactly what they need, when they need it.”

The pharmacy staff members strive to go above and beyond and problem solve, whether compounding a special item, making a special delivery to someone with an urgent need, or trying to get a medication at an affordable price.

Knowing that giving back to the community is important, Flatirons sponsors an annual Meals on Wheels holiday lunch. It provides a free backpack program with supplies before school starts each year, as well as a pizza party with a local children’s home.

“These are all ways that we pay back the community that has supported us,” Palazzolo said.

She is proud to run a female-owned business, “in what still feels like an old boys’ club of pharmacy owners.”

Outside work, Palazzolo enjoys spending time with her husband of 15 years, 2 children (14 and 11), and her 2 rescue dogs. As a family, they love to travel and see new things when time away from the business allows.

Palazzolo said she would like to remind fellow independent owners to keep up the good fight.

“We are all tired and wonder what is going to come at us next, but we are good people wanting to do good things, and I have the belief that in the big picture, good still wins,” she said.
 
Karen Berger, PharmD, is a pharmacist at an independent pharmacy in northern New Jersey.