Good Neighbor Pharmacy of the Year Finalist Spotlight

September 28, 2020

AmerisourceBergen is celebrating Good Neighbor Pharmacy’s 2020 Pharmacy of the Year Award finalists.

From a field of 2000 nominations for over 450 pharmacies, AmerisourceBergen is celebrating Good Neighbor Pharmacy’s (GNP) 2020 Pharmacy of the Year Award finalists.

The annual award highlights top independent pharmacies within the GNP network that display excellence in patient care, community outreach, and innovative pharmacy practice. On September 15, AmerisourceBergen announced this year’s top 3 contenders: Family Pharmacy of Pottsboro, Lily’s Pharmacy of Johns Creek, and McCoy-Tygart Drug.

As pillars of their local communities, independent pharmacies provide local, personalized care catered to their neighborhood’s needs. Drug Topics® interviewed each of the 3 finalists to dive deeper into the experiences and services that make them preferred health care destinations for their patients, especially during unprecedented times such as the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Family Pharmacy of Pottsboro

Established in 1985, Family Pharmacy of Pottsboro is a family-owned pharmacy that serves the area of Pottsboro, Sherman, and Denison, Texas. Co-owner Sue Peippo and her husband Mark purchased the pharmacy in 2010, after years of working in the chain industry. According to Peippo, transitioning back into the independent pharmacy world was the best decision she’s made. 

“It allows us to practice pharmacy the way we want to practice and just build those relationships with customers and patients,” she said.

That personalization is what makes Family Pharmacy stand out. Peippo tells each new pharmacy employee to challenge themselves to not only memorize the faces of their patients, but also take the time to get to know them and listen to their needs. “We want to be their go-to health care provider in the good times and the bad,” she said.

From providing immunizations and compounding to medication synchronization, Family Pharmacy operates as a 1-stop-shop for all of its patients. Peippo noted that the store also offers local delivery services, including a delivery program to a small nursing home in the area for those who need it.

“We have expanded in the last 6 months to support a couple of local hospice organizations,” Peippo added. “We also partner with local nonprofits here in town that assist individuals that need financial help with their medications.”

And servicing the community doesn’t end there for Family Pharmacy. Peippo noted that their employees have also been regularly involved with the community outside of the pharmacy’s walls.

“Mark (Co-founder of Family Pharmacy) is a volunteer for the local Boy Scouts troop. I’m the Rotary Club president. I’ve also been a member of the Chamber of Commerce for about 10 years,” Peippo said. “And the community reciprocates the support in more ways than one, with word of mouth recommendations.”

When the pandemic hit, the staff of Family Pharmacy immediately stepped up to ensure its patients continued to receive the care they needed. After shutting its front doors to foot traffic, the pharmacy started what Peippo called its “SOS plan,” which enabled patients and customers to email in any type of shopping list or prescriptions that they needed. Using its compounding services, the pharmacy was able to fill the hand sanitizer gap in the community by compounding and distributing hand sanitizers.

And during a time when most businesses were shortening hours, Family Pharmacy staff put in extra time for their patients. Peippo said that the store adapted to a drive-through system for dispensing, extending its hours for patients who needed to pick up prescriptions outside of normal business hours, and pivoted to curbside services for those who needed extra time to discuss their medications.

“We did a lot of curbside consultations, as well as phone consultations,” Peippo said. “Our number one priority is keeping our patients safe and healthy, as well as our employees.”

Additionally, the pharmacy added a coronavirus news updates page to its website to help its customers to stay informed with easy access to reliable information from trustworthy sources.

Peippo stated that she believes the future of pharmacy is bright–especially considering the accessibility that local independent pharmacies bring to their neighborhoods. And that kind of personal, trusted relationship that extends beyond the dispense.

“We’ve got to stand up for the profession and support [our] local officials, whether it’s at the state level [or] the national level. We must present the challenges that we are expeierncing in the pharmacy industry to our local legislators,” Peippo said. She noted that industry changes by way of PBM reforms and price transparency are needed, and pharmacists must band together to make that happen.

When asked what makes her proud to be a Pharmacy of the Year finalist, Peippo pointed to her staff. “It’s absolutely humbling. We cannot do this without our tremendous employees.”

McCoy-Tygart Drug

Based in Grant County, Arkansas, McCoy-Tygart Drug has served the community since 1895. Drug Topics® spoke to senior partner and pharmacist Donald “Sparky” Hedden about what makes the pharmacy a success.

A 1975 graduate of the University of Arkansas for Medical Science College of Pharmacy, Sparky strives to use his 45 years of pharmacy experience to provide personalized attention and care for those in the Grant County community.

“We are more than just a pharmacy,” Sparky said. “We’re a 1-stop shop for our customers.” Not only does the pharmacy provide pharmaceutical care and health and wellness products, but it offers a gift shop, wedding and baby registries, and even tuxedo rentals. McCoy-Tygart Drug’s unique product offerings are a testament to the pharmacy’s ability to cater to the neighborhood’s specific needs.

“We take care of them from birth to old age, and everything in between,” Sparky said.

As for the COVID-19 pandemic, McCoy-Tygart Drug had to find new ways to adapt. Being in a strip mall, the store could not depend on a designated drive-through option. After closing its lobby amid the pandemic, the store implemented a pop-up tent in the front of the store for drive-through prescriptions. The store also ramped up its delivery services and continued free in-town delivery to ensure patients, especially the vulnerable and immunocompromised, could still access the products they needed.

Sparky also pointed to the store’s medication synchronization program. Prior to the pandemic, the program consisted of approximately 160 patients, but grew to more than 1000 over the last 6 months. The program allows patients to come in or receive their deliveries less frequently, helping them to reduce their exposure while social distancing, and also helping the pharmacy with inventory control. Sparky noted that many of these services, such as the deliveries, will likely continue to stick with customers beyond the pandemic.

When asked how he feels about the future of pharmacy, Sparky expressed optimism about where the profession is heading, particularly in the next generation of pharmacists. “With the advancement of technology, I think the next generation of pharmacists will be in an even better position to provide exceptional patient care,” Sparky said.

For Sparky, being an award finalist signifies a lifetime achievement for the pharmacy. He credits all of the families–the McCoys, the Tygarts, and the Heddens–who have served the community over the years.

“It’s not from what we’ve done over the last year or last 6 months, it’s what we’ve done for this community for the last 125 years,” he said.

Lily’s Pharmacy

For the Shannon family, it’s always been a dream to open a pharmacy and provide stellar service and expertise to their community.

Lily’s Pharmacy, owned and operated by Jennifer Shannon, PharmD, along with her husband Michael, is a full-service pharmacy located in Johns Creek, Georgia. The pharmacy strives to be the neighborhood’s most trusted pharmacy by providing the highest level of pharmaceutical care and personalized service in a family-friendly setting.

“I think you can find a pharmacy on every block anywhere you go, so I wanted to do something different and I wanted our family to be at the core of all of it,” Shannon told Drug Topics® in an interview. Shannon, who was trained as a clinical pharmacist in an ambulatory care setting, incorporates clinical pharmacy services into her practice based on the community’s needs.

“We provide pharmacy care the way it’s supposed to be,” Shannon said. According to her, prescriptions are filled with care at the pharmacy, with full oversight of the whole patient. Shannon emphasized the importance of personalized care that stems from the pharmacist being directly involved with the patient’s care, rather than just filling prescriptions.

Shannon discussed some of the unique programs that the pharmacy offers, which includes a transition of care program with the local hospital. “We’ve had this program that started and ever since it’s bloomed and blossomed in a million different ways, and so we have really built our services around what our patients at discharge needed.” These services extend beyond just dispensing, and often encompass medication reconciliation and in-person consults. 

According to Shannon, the pharmacy’s community services have evolved, and the pharmacy now serves approximately 5000 to 6000 families in the area.

In the last 6 months especially, the pharmacy has had to work around the specific challenges of the pandemic to continue serving their patients. “It really has shaken the way we have interacted with our patients,” Shannon said. “My favorite part of my job is seeing our patients every day and interacting in-person with them. Removing that physical touch really changed the way we did business because I thought, well how am I going to reach them? How am I going to talk to them?”

Shannon noted when they made the difficult decision to close the pharmacy’s doors to incoming foot traffic to keep the staff safe. Instead of in-person prescription pickups, the pharmacy moved to delivery, curbside, and drive-through services. According to Shannon, their delivery expanded from a 6 radius to 20 miles, which brought in a whole new realm of patients for the pharmacy.

“The thing about independent pharmacies is we’ve already had a lot of things in place, we just tweaked them to meet the patient's needs,” Shannon said. “I love that we didn’t have to change our model tremendously to provide care continuums.”

Despite the hardships that COVID-19 brought, Shannon noted that it may have opened a lot more people’s eyes to the elevated level of care that pharmacists bring to their health care team. “I see pharmacy’s future evolving rapidly,” Shannon said. “I really think we’re at a pinnacle of time where that’s happening.” As physician’s offices were closing around them, the staff of Lily’s Pharmacy were there to answer calls and triage problems that patients were dealing with amid the pandemic. Shannon believes that pharmacists will be providing more direct patient care services in the future, especially as the profession moves toward provider status recognition.

“I think patients are willing to start paying more for services from pharmacists, because we’re here, we’re accessible,” she said.

But for this to happen, Shannon expressed that all stakeholders must change the way they view pharmacists. Pharmacists can be their own advocates by educating those around them about the important role they play in patient care.

“Spreading that message can change the way people view our profession,” Shannon said. “As I always say, patients should pick their pharmacist like they pick their doctor.”

As for being a Pharmacy of the Year finalist, Shannon said, “I’m just proud to serve people that value their pharmacy care the way they do. I’m just proud to represent them and be their pharmacist.”

Voting for the Good Neighbor Pharmacy of the Year award runs through October 16th. Votes can be cast by visiting GNPPharmacyoftheYear.com or the Good Neighbor Pharmacy Facebook page – Facebook.com/GoodNeighborPharmacy – where videos highlighting the three finalists are posted. The annual award will be presented virtually on October 20th during a special presentation on ABLive.