During the past several years,Kerr Drug has focused onchanging its pharmacy carefrom product-based to service-based.The North Carolina-based companyresearched local communities to determinethe health care needs of its customers,reviewing education level, financialsituation, prevalence of diseasestates, and insurance statistics. As aresult of that research, about 3 yearsago, Kerr created a pharmacy known asthe Community Healthcare Center. Thispharmacy is different in that it does notsell any non-health-related productssuch as makeup, potato chips, flip-flops,or Halloween costumes—items oftensold at large retail pharmacies to keepthem in the black.
What customers can expect at thecenter is access to a wide variety of servicesdesigned to improve their health insome way, whether it is the dietitianstaffed"Hi-Energy Weight ControlCenter," respiratory service, OTC counseling,prenatal counseling, patient education,medication therapy management(MTM), or health screenings.
Clinical pharmacist Jennifer Hopson,PharmD, came onboard the Lenoir,NC-based facility as Kerr Drug's ideaswere coming together, and she soonbecame a valuable part of making thecenter's objectives happen. While shekeeps busy taking care of 40 patients aspart of the Asheville Project and runningflu clinics (among other duties), somecenter pharmacists are working withphysicians to develop patient educationprograms, and others are involved withresearch, such as interviewing and followingup with patients for Glaxo-SmithKline's asthma intervention program."It's a good fit for these clinicalpharmacists who have good access tothe patients," said Dr. Hopson.
Patient Education EqualsPreventive Medicine
A wide variety of health screeningsand clinics are a big draw for this store—some are free and some are pay-forserviceat the register. The center featuresa large classroom, allowing pharmaciststo conduct a variety of patienteducation programs, which are the firststeps to prevention of serious diseasestates. Dr. Hopson said they run about 10to 15 programs each month; a recentprogram on bird flu was designed toinform and prepare people in the eventof an outbreak. One of Dr. Hopson'sfavorite education programs was ahealth fair, themed "Women and HeartDisease," which included facial analysis,blood pressure screening, blood sugartesting, body fat and body mass indexmeasurement, sleep apnea screening,and gift bags for all participants. BecauseDr. Hopson is also a lactation educator,she is able to provide a unique service atthe Lenoir center, which also boasts abreastfeeding support group. Other programsinclude smoking cessation and a"how-to" for nebulizers and inhalers. Shenoted that the most popular clinic todate was on fibromyalgia.
"We are always involved in some kindof intervention, whether it's cost savingsor a medication interaction. A patientmight be seeing 2 or 3 doctors who mayor may not be communicating with eachother. The medication therapy serviceswe provide make it healthier and morecost-effective for the patients," said Dr.Hopson. "Drugs are powerful. Peoplethink drugs are candy, and they're not.Pharmacists are medication experts whotake these medications very seriously."
From Customer Serviceto Clinical Service
"The pendulum is swinging," shenoted. "Everything was leaning towardproduct at one time, and now it is movingtoward service. The product dispensingcan be left to [the mass marketers]—they are already retail giants. The independentsand chain pharmacies willneed to become more service-orientedin order to stay in business. Good customerservice is essential, but clinicalservices are paramount. MTM servicesare becoming more important. It is achallenge for all of us."
Ultimately, she said, all pharmacistsconduct a triage—but never chargepatients for that service. "A pharmacist'sdiagnosing skills are limited, so in thoseinstances they can refer the patients toa physician. Think about how much theirintervention saves the health care system."
"Part of pharmacy is going to have tochange, and growing pains are hard.We're struggling to define who we are.These are issues for pharmacy studentsto consider," Dr. Hopson added. In themeantime, Kerr's Community HealthcareCenter is doing its part to keep escalatinghealth care costs down by providingpreventive measures through educationand quality maintenance of health carethrough clinical services. By focusingexclusively on health, the CommunityHealthcare Center delivers a high level ofservice for its customers and allowspharmacists to use their clinical skills ina meaningful way.
Ms. Farley is a freelance medical writerbased in Wakefield, RI.