The Apothecary Shoppe in Salt Lake City, Utah, makes sure its employees know each patient who walks through the pharmacy door.
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“For 50 years, we’ve been calling people by their name, right? It’s not like going to the DMV [Division of Motor Vehicles],” Kevin DeMass, RPh, president and CEO of the pharmacy, said in an interview. “It’s very, very rare that we have someone who walks in our door that we don’t know who they are, or that they’ve been referred by somebody.”
The Apothecary Shoppe does not have a sign outside the pharmacy, because it is located next to the neurology center of the local hospital and primarily operates based on word of mouth.
“If you have a good experience here, you tell your friend, mom, neighbor, somebody who you’re going to school with, your roommate, and then eventually they end up here,” DeMass said. “By the time you leave, we’re old friends, and we remember, [saying] ‘Thanks for coming....We’ll see you next time.’ That makes a big difference.”
The pharmacy also offers home delivery and makes 12 to 50 deliveries a day, DeMass said.
"We have delivery drivers, but once in a while, I will sneak out from the pharmacy, and I will show up, because I talk to these people on the phone all day long,” DeMass said. "It is so fun to be able to talk to my patients on the phone for year after year after year and then one day show up at their home with a treat and their medication."
In addition to deliveries, The Apothecary Shoppe also sends automated messages to patients wishing them a happy birthday, thanking them for their loyalty, and thanking them for trusting DeMass to take care of them. Patients appreciate this more than he thought they would.
"They never got a birthday call [because] their spouse is deceased or their friends or they’ve outlived their family, and their children might have forgot, or they don’t have any kids, or nobody in [their] building even knew—but their pharmacy knew,” DeMass said.
When talking about connecting with patients and caring for them, he said it is important for the pharmacy to offer a safe space for patients, especially those who have been turned down or offended by other practices. "These are people who breathe the same air and eat the same food and drink the same that you and I do. They have been offended or felt inferior in another practice setting,” DeMass said.
The Apothecary Shoppe works with nonprofit organizations across Salt Lake City, including organizations that cater to abused children and women, individuals with HIV, and those who are unhoused.
The key to countering the stigma is treating all individuals the same way.
"We call [patients] and see if they’d been to the doctor every month, [or ask if ] any of [their] medications changed,” DeMass said. "They feel like a regular person, and they fit into our family. They have to accept me, and then I accept you, and that symbiosis is wonderful.”