Topeka Pharmacy is community’s service center
Tom and Morag Miller
Define “American heartland” and the town of Topeka, Ind., could easily fit the bill. And independently owned Topeka Pharmacy, honored as Good Neighbor Pharmacy of the Year at AmerisourceBergen’s ThoughtSpot 2015, could just as easily define the concept of drug store as an indispensible fixture of small-town life.
Located appropriately on Main Street in the center of this one-stoplight town, Topeka Pharmacy thrives not only by meeting a wide range of health and household needs for a strictly traditional rural market, but by serving as a center and gathering place for the local community.
That community, comprising about 1,000 households in town and in the surrounding farms, is nearly 60% Amish or Mennonite, making it “a quieter, gentler, kinder place,” said Morag Miller, who together with her husband Tom runs Topeka Pharmacy.
In business since 1988, the store tailors its services and product mix to local needs and customs, while staying abreast of healthcare advances with clinical services and the latest mobile technologies. Topeka Pharmacy sells Amish bonnets and baby clothes, and also offers Amish-made products. Among its other offerings are giftware; fresh flowers; a department called “Sara’s Attic” featuring fabrics, notions and Amish-made quilts; and an old-fashioned soda fountain called Crossroads Café that serves Amish cooking.
But Topeka Pharmacy’s central purpose, said owner Tom Miller, remains health and wellness. To that end, Topeka offers programs in such areas as diabetes education taught by a certified diabetes educator, weight management classes and more.
“The keys to our success are the connection to the community and the outcomes we try to give our patients every day,” Miller said. “This outcome can also be a Good Neighbor Pharmacy product … [or] a place to have lunch; a place to come and talk to people; a meeting place.”
“We are the service center of the community,” Topeka’s owner-operator added. “And with our Amish population at nearly 60%, that’s important, because otherwise they literally have to hire a driver to take them somewhere else. So if we can be their one-stop shop, it works for the Amish particularly well, and it works for the English. And they all listen to us for their information. We’ve tried to carefully nurture that over the years.”
Miller called the resources provided by AmerisourceBergen “vast, and it multiplies our ability to be good to our patients and make those outcomes positive.”
In addition, he said, “The Good Neighbor Pharmacy logo is starting to get recognized nationally. That’s good for us. It sets us apart from everybody else. It gives us an identity that [customers] don’t get anyplace else.”
Coming up for Topeka Pharmacy, said its owner, is an increasing commitment to a higher level of healthcare delivery and more aggressive efforts to work with payers to establish standard reimbursement for its services on behalf of healthier patients. “Next for Topeka Pharmacy is getting paid for those outcomes,” Miller said. “We’ve hired a medication therapist pharmacist … [and] a certified dietitian. We do [diabetic] shoe fittings. And we’re working on the next step — whether that [is] coagulation therapy, blood pressure intervention, or whatever it is — to become that provider.”
“As we lose doctors in our country, these patients have to turn to somebody, … and they have to go somewhere,” Miller added. “We would like to be the answer to that.”
Filling local health needs with compounding, infusion
Marble City Health Mart Pharmacy co-owner Jared Johnson advises a patient.
Marble City Health Mart Pharmacy owners have secured a place in the life of the community by offering deeply personal care and a broad menu of vital health services.
Those efforts won Marble City Health Mart McKesson Corp.’s 2015 Pharmacy of the Year. Marble City Health Mart has tapped a deeply rooted local need for health services and personal care that goes beyond traditional pharmacy dispensing and counseling.
The pharmacy staff holds diabetes education classes and conducts a diabetes fair twice a year. Pharmacists also regularly visit senior citizen facilities and low-income housing units and conduct community outreach and health presentations. “When you are out in the community, you gain the confidence of potential customers,” said co-owner Jared Johnson.
The owners’ commitment to personalized service goes beyond lip service. The Johnsons rotate carrying a store mobile phone so they are always available to their customers 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Among other capabilities, Marble City Pharmacy specializes in pharmaceutical compounding. “When commercially available products are not available, we work with [a patient’s] physician to find alternate therapies,” Marble City’s owners reported. “We have the proper equipment to make most types of non-sterile compounds. We also bill most insurance [companies].”
Marble City also partners with the insurance program for state and local government employees to provide biometric health screenings, which can save government employees $25 a month in insurance costs.
In 2014, the owners launched Marble City Vital Care, a home infusion and therapy service and supply business. Previously, patients and their caregivers had to drive nearly 50 miles to Birmingham, Ala., for those services.
“Access to those services and supplies increased patient adherence and reduced the rate of avoidable readmissions to local hospitals,” the Johnsons said. “A coincidental yet welcome business benefit has been an increase in the number of traditional prescriptions filled from new patients cared for by physicians new to the pharmacy because of Marble City Vital Care.”
To keep physicians informed of developments in new generic drugs or changes in medication regulations, the Johnsons also send a “fax blast” to more than three dozen local physicians, and provide continuing education classes for doctors and nurses.
‘Best Practice’ winners set mark for innovation
Above: Cardinal Health recognized winners of the annual Independent Pharmacy Best Practices during the opening session of this year's Retail Business Conference in Las Vegas.
Right: Mike Bellesine
New patient-care and business solutions won three independent pharmacies special recognition at Cardinal Health’s annual Retail Business Conference in Las Vegas in July.
Named best practices winner in the Wellness Advantage category was the Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy in Whiting, N.J. The award went to owner Al Patel in part for creation of Discharge Rx Care, which helps transition patients from the nursing home to their own home.
Discharge Rx Care begins at the nursing home, where the pharmacy works with staff to prepare a patient’s medications prior to discharge. To improve long-term adherence rates among homebound patients, the pharmacy prepares unit-dose packs for morning, noon evening and bedtime. On the day the patient is discharged, a pharmacist visits the patient at home to deliver the meds and perform medication reconciliation.
Seattle-based Katterman’s Pharmacy won recognition in the Retail Advantage segment for “front-end solutions that help maximize profitability, while enhancing the customer experience,” Cardinal reported. Pharmacists and co-owners Beverly Schaefer and Steve Cone say they’re on a quest to reinvent their business every three years.
Among its many innovations, Katterman’s has remade itself as a destination for travelers by offering last-minute, travel-related vaccinations and an extensive line of easy-to-pack personal necessities. A Katterman’s travel vaccination customer spends an average of $300 for goods and services, and vaccines are usually administered for two or more travelers at a time.
Drive-through pharmacies were installed to make it easier for customers to drop off or pick up prescriptions. But pharmacist Mike Bellesine, owner of El Dorado TrueCare Pharmacy in Eldorado, Kan., realized his pharmacy’s drive-up window service was causing patients more pain than convenience.
Bellesine knew he often had a long line waiting for drive-through service at TrueCare, which can fill more than 900 prescriptions on busy days. His solution: a restaurant-style pager system. Bellesine said the pager system has made TrueCare the fastest and most efficient drive-up window in town. And the number of drive-through register transactions has jumped from an average of 50 per day to more than 120 per day.