The Evolution of Independent Pharmacy


Throughout his career, Brian Nightengale, PhD, has bared witness to many of the changes and challenges experienced by independent pharmacists.

Throughout his career, Brian Nightengale, PhD, has witnessed many of the changes and challenges experienced by independent pharmacists.

A graduate of the University of South Carolina and the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Dr. Nightengale served for nearly two decades as the vice president and then president of AmerisourceBergen’s Xcenda business unit. In May 2016, he was named president of Good Neighbor Pharmacy (GNP), an AmerisourceBergen-sponsored cooperative network of pharmacies.

During his first year in this new role, Dr. Nightengale focused his efforts on developing an acute understanding of his customers’ needs and challenges.

“It’s essential to use an active listening model to gain those insights, as all independent pharmacies are unique,” Dr. Nightengale told Pharmacy Times in an interview leading up to GNP's annual conference and trade show, ThoughtSpot, which kicks off today (July 19). “This year we made investments in direct customer research with in-depth focus groups of patients, pharmacists, and internal staff. Although we’ve gotten a good view of the current needs of our customers, we need to continue to better understand our patients and pharmacists, as well as how best to help them.”

Having identified many of the challenges independent pharmacists face, including shrinking reimbursement, narrow payment networks, and limited access to innovative products, Dr. Nightengale and his colleagues turned their attention to developing solutions that account for the varied needs of their members.

“I think we’ve done a great job over the past 30 years in helping our members evaluate opportunities and grow their businesses,” Dr. Nightengale stated. “I think we have a solid platform that allows our customer to engage with us in a manner that best suits their needs.

“What we’re working on now is how to simplify those interactions to meet the individual needs of our customers. We want to help pharmacists practice at the top of their license, but achieving that goal will take more than a one-size-fits-all approach.”

Invoking the AmerisourceBergen mission to be “united in our responsibility to create healthier futures,” Dr. Nightengale emphasized the importance of not only caring for patients’ current needs, but also preparing for a future in which those needs change. Additionally, he warned independent pharmacies of the dangers of remaining stagnant through those changes.

“There were once almost 30,000 independent pharmacies, but that number dropped to about 22,000 before stabilizing,” he explained. “I believe that independent pharmacies may be close to another inflection point. If independent pharmacists don’t evolve, and if we at GNP don’t play a big role in that evolution, we might see another big drop.”

Despite these concerns, Dr. Nightengale remains inspired by the willingness of independent pharmacists to adapt alongside the shifting landscape of health care.

“Community pharmacists are pillars of their community and passionate about the care they provide and patients they support,” Dr. Nightengale said. “It’s really encouraging to see that while so many things have changed, that entrepreneurial spirit and passion for community-based care and have remained consistent. They inspire me to do everything I can do help them in that evolution.”

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