Baltimore Pharmacy Owners Driven by Helping Patients with Health Barriers


Pharmacy owner Thuy Cao helped a patient who was struggling after her mother's death.

A patient was recently referred to Voshell's Pharmacy in Baltimore, Maryland, by Wellpoint, 1 of Maryland’s largest Medicaid managed care organizations and a contracted partner of pharmacy’s clinically integrated network, CPESN Maryland. Pharmacy owner Thuy Cao called the patient who lives near the pharmacy. Through Cao’s outreach, the patient shared that her mother passed away 7 months ago, and she hasn’t quite recovered from the trauma.

Since her mother’s death, the patient didn’t want to talk with anyone. She didn’t want to go outside. She didn’t do either. And she didn’t visit her pharmacy (a chain pharmacy that didn’t offer prescription delivery). Because she didn’t proactively push the chain, they didn’t fill her blood pressure medications…for 7 months. During the same phone call, Cao and the patient were able to connect and talk about the importance of taking medications as prescribed.

Cao filled the patient’s prescriptions and scheduled hand delivery of the medications to the patient’s home. They filled and packaged the patient’s medications on Friday and delivered them to her home the following morning. Since then, this patient has remained adherent to all medications filled and delivered by Voshell’s Pharmacy. That is just one patient story about Voshell’s Pharmacy and how they are a valuable part of Baltimore. There are dozens more.

Cao and her husband, Trieu, own 2 Baltimore-area pharmacies: Voshell’s Pharmacy and Soleil Pharmacy. Trieu has been a retail pharmacist for over 20 years. He was among the first generation of immigrants from Vietnam who earned a graduate degree in pharmacy. Trieu started his career working for a retail chain and worked for chain pharmacies for the first 15 years. In 2018, he started working at an independent pharmacy. Once there, he saw a big difference in the way patients were treated and knew he needed to be an independent pharmacy owner. Cao has a master’s degree in Foreign Languages and was working as a real estate agent when she obtained her pharmacy technician license 2017 in preparation for pharmacy ownership. They work side-by-side running the pharmacies.

They focus on the Vietnamese and Korean populations and Hispanic communities in the Baltimore area. Cao underscored her pharmacies’ focus on minority populations by saying, “We are making an impact with these underserved minority communities in the Baltimore area. We see examples of it every day! And seeing our impact makes the hard work so worth it.”

Thuy also supports the CPESN Community Connected initiative focused on preparing CPESN pharmacies to thrive through the provision of patient-centered services delivery within the diverse communities where patients live, eat, play, and pray. She created a Vietnamese marketing tool kit to help pharmacies connect with the Vietnamese population in their community.

Finding Value in Flip the Pharmacy

Cao enrolled her young pharmacies in the Flip the Pharmacy program just prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. She believed it would help her pharmacy staff focus more on patient care and less on getting prescriptions filled and out the door. Then, COVID-19 changed everything and became the focus. Cao said, “Flip the Pharmacy and CPESN USA were able to quickly adapt to changes caused by the pandemic. Flip the Pharmacy and CPESN USA provided COVID-specific change packages and answers to questions in near real time. They shared the expertise, insights, and best practices from other independent pharmacies across the country. As a new pharmacy owner, that information was invaluable as we were navigating the COVID-19 pandemic.”

As the COVID-19 pandemic dissipated, Cao and her pharmacy staff ramped up their medication synchronization (Med Sync) efforts, by using the tools provided by Flip the Pharmacy and their Max My Sync program. Cao was hoping to create some time to dedicate to patient education and counseling. By listening to the Max My Sync webinars, she learned how to optimize her pharmacy management system for both Med Sync and submitting eCare Plans.

Prior to Max My Sync, Thuy’s pharmacies had approximately 25 patients enrolled in a manual, paper-based, “calendar” Med Sync program. Now, they have roughly 20% of their pharmacy’s prescription volume enrolled in Med Sync. With the support of Max My Sync, Thuy believes they can get that percentage to 50%. Thuy shared, “By listening to the Med Sync webinars and leveraging technology you realize that there is a better way to do that.”

At first, Cao listened to the Max My Sync webinar calls. Now, it is mandatory that each of her pharmacists and technicians listen to the Max My Sync program as a part of their week. She also has her admin assistant listen to and summarize each session in case a team member misses it. Pharmacies looking to participate in Max My Sync and the Flip the Pharmacy Workflow Wednesdays webinars, can register and access these resources at no cost.

Now that they are seeing more free time from Med Sync, they have moved to opioids – and are using the opioid pledge—and immunization services using the appointment-based model.

Leveraging Parata in a Different Way

Even though they have 2 smaller pharmacies, Cao invested in Parata (they have a Parata Pass at their Voshell’s location) due to the language component and adherence packaging capabilities. Solving the language barrier for their patients is core to their pharmacy’s mission. Cao shared, “With the Vietnamese language, you could miss accentuations that change the meaning of the entire sentence. You can’t get this wrong. Using Parata allows you to get it right. It is a valuable tool.”

Additionally, Thuy services a growing visually impaired, elderly population. Thuy is working with another technology company that offers a QR Code on medications, so patients can scan it and know they are taking the right medicine. Thuy will be offering this new service in the coming months.

Eventually, they plan to push into central fill from one location with the capabilities from Parata.

Thinking back on the past 5 years of pharmacy ownership and surviving the pandemic, Cao shared, “I’m really happy about going on this adventure with my husband. We’ve helped optimize patient care and wellness in our local community. Sure, there have been obstacles, but those hurdles are meant to push us to improve. We continue to move past obstacles and focus on the care we are providing our patients.”

Parata is a national sponsor of the Flip the Pharmacy program. Additional funding for Flip the Pharmacy is made by the Community Pharmacy Foundation, along with national and local team sponsors. The Flip the Pharmacy program has over 1,400 community pharmacies that have engaged in practice transformation, which are supported by over 541 pharmacy coaches from 74 local Flip the Pharmacy teams. To learn more, please visit, Flip the Pharmacy resources are free for all community pharmacies to access.

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