Missouri Pharmacies Go Above and Beyond for Patients

Pharmacy Times, October 2021, Volume 87, Issue 10
Pages: 58

Alps Pharmacy serves the community, long-term care, and specialty markets at its 3 locations.

Melody Savley, RPh, and her husband, Don Savley, own 3 independent pharmacies: Alps Pharmacy, a community pharmacy in Springfield, Missouri; and 2 closed-door pharmacies in Nixa, Missouri, Alps Long Term Care Pharmacy and Alps Specialty Pharmacy. Melody is the chief pharmacy officer, and Don is the CEO and president.

Melody has extensive experience in pharmacy, having started her first job at an independent pharmacy at age 16. “I have been in pharmacy for 47 years,” she said. “Everything was manual with typewriters, carbon paper, and telephones with super-long cords.”

Melody enjoyed breaking the stereotype of patients’ image of a pharmacist, which was “an older gentleman with white hair and a white lab coat. I gained their trust and loyalty,” she said.

She moved to Nixa in 1987, juggling being a mom and working in a variety of pharmacy environments. In 2002, Melody became director of pharmacy for a small chain of grocery store pharmacies. Around that time, she met Don, who was the chief operating officer of the chain. They later became engaged and opened Alps Pharmacy, which was in a working-class neighborhood.

Melody said patients at Alps Pharmacy were appreciative of her, saying things like “You’re the first pharmacist who has ever talked to me,” “You treat me like I am a real person,” and “You don’t talk down to me.”

Melody said the pharmacy staff members helped these patients with not only their prescription needs, but also with other essential matters, such as finding food and transportation and helping them read mail.

“It was very eye-opening to me, because I never worked with low-income patients,” she said.

“We learned quickly that they have a different set of needs,” Melody said. “I believe our staff’s compassion, treating our patients with respect, listening to their needs, and helping them are what caused our pharmacy to grow so quickly.”

Alps Pharmacy offers cutting-edge technology, such as ScripTalk, a service for patients who are visually impaired. Participating patients receive a free device for home use that reads the prescription label aloud.

Melody said Alps Pharmacy is known for customer service.

“We treat our patients with kindness, and we are a go-to pharmacy to help with insurance, co-pay, and formulary issues,” she said. “We listen and are proactive. For example, if a co-pay is too expensive, we look for solutions.”

Alps Specialty Pharmacy works with foundations and manufacturers to help patients obtain medications at a reduced cost or free of charge.

“Importantly, when we run into issues, such as when a prescription needs a prior authorization [PA], we call the patient and let them know the problem and the solution. So many people have expressed their gratitude and surprise for this communication,” Melody said.

For example, a pharmacy technician might call to let a patient that a PA is needed, but has already called the doctor and made a note to follow up the next day and call the patient when the prescription is ready.

Alps hand delivers prescriptions within a 100-mile radius, completing several hundred deliveries weekly among 4 states.

Alps offers an accredited diabetes education and prevention program with glycated hemoglobin and blood sugar testing, COVID-19 testing, durable medical equipment, functional medicine sessions, long-acting injectables, and shoes for patients with diabetes. The pharmacy chain also partnered with first responders to give 5500 COVID-19 vaccines, in addition to other vaccinations it routinely provides.

Melody and her staff also send out get well and sympathy cards. She recalled a patient who said the pharmacy’s card was the only card she received.

“Sometimes, you have no idea that a small act of kindness can mean so much to someone,” she said.

Melody said helping the community is very important, especially for patients with substance use disorders.

The pharmacy’s staff members work with the local court, counselors, judges, and physicians to help patients receive and pay for treatment, perform patient counseling, and remind patients of appointments. They also help patients by administering Vivitrol (naltrexone) injections.

“The results with this type of coordinated care are outstanding,” Melody said.

Melody offers a community pharmacy practice residency program, which allows the pharmacy to become more involved in various projects. Alps Pharmacy is a member of the Community Pharmacy Enhanced Services Network, and Melody also participates in its Flip the Pharmacy project, which aims to transform community pharmacies. She also serves on committees of the Missouri Pharmacy Association.

“I am a firm believer in staying involved with state- and national-level pharmacy organizations and advocacy,” Melody said.

She recognizes that her team is critical to the success of the pharmacies.

“We have outstanding employees who care about the patients,” Melody said. “That is the key to our success: having motivated and dedicated employees, and we appreciate them so much.”

In May, the pharmacy received the Springfield Business Journal’s Dynamic Dozen award, which recognizes 12 of the fastest-growing businesses in and around Springfield, Missouri.

“We are very proud of the award, as it exemplifies the hard work and commitment of our employees and leaders,” Melody said.

In her spare time, Melody enjoys spending time with her husband, children, grandchildren, and friends. Her other interests include her Christian faith, cooking, entertaining, spending time at a lake, reading, traveling, and volunteering.

Karen Berger, PharmD, is a pharmacist at an independent pharmacy in northern New Jersey.