A look at some more independent pharmacies that excel at what they do

October 22, 2007

This annual features takes a close look at the top performing independent pharmacies who were nominated by their wholesalers.

A look at some more independent pharmacies that excel at what they do
Sandra Levy

Our cup runneth over…. Our Oct. 22 issue featured a gallery of independent pharmacies nominated by their wholesalers for their outstanding performance. Here is a look at some additional pharmacies they consider to be simply the best:

Exceptional pharmacy and nonpharmacy services

Chris Reiter, R.Ph., and Scott Buda, R.Ph., opened Health Mart Pharmacy of Lynbrook, in Lynbrook, N.Y., in April, and despite two giant pharmacy chains located nearby, the pair are already enjoying success. "We were new to Lynbrook, so we did a little research and saw that this community was underserved as far as having a community pharmacy," said Reiter.

Armed with the motto, "Pharmacy the way it used to be," Reiter believes that, by offering personalized service, Health Mart Pharmacy of Lynbrook can outshine its competitors, which include CVS and Walgreens.

"We offer free delivery. I make deliveries myself," boasted Reiter. "We try to accommodate patients as much as possible. Customer service is our No. 1 priority."

In addition to milk, eggs, greeting cards, and toys in the 5,000-sq. ft. store, there is a large surgical section.

Noting that Lynbrook is home to many elderly patients—there are about half a dozen assisted-living centers in the area—Reiter said, "We have accounts in a couple of these centers. We are finding that the demand for the surgical department has definitely picked up."

The pharmacy delivers hospital beds, walkers, and canes to patients' homes. But the service doesn't end there. Reiter also sets up the beds. "We also train people on how to use the walkers and canes. People buy these items and don't use them the correct way. Safety comes first," he said.

Yet another strategy for success has Reiter partnering with two doctors who recently opened an office one block away. "The office is like a walk-in urgent care clinic," he said. "We were thinking of opening a mini clinic, but we didn't want to step on their toes. We will have a program with them. They will have a section in our store, and the doctors will give flu shots to seniors."

In order to beat the competition, the pharmacy has invested in software to enable e-prescribing, explained Buda. "When the customers come in, everything has been processed for them already," he said. "We have their information on the screen, so instead of wasting time getting that information when they come in, we can spend more time counseling them on their medication."

Health Mart Pharmacy of Lynbrook also has a blood pressure machine in the store, which patients can use for free. But unlike other stores that offer these machines, Reiter pointed out, "If the patients have questions, we'll go over to them and help them. We are trying to be Lynbrook's destination for one-stop health care."

Reiter is talking to local senior centers about launching brown bag days. Noting that when his mother was in a wheelchair, an independent pharmacist cared for her, he said, "He was an independent guy around the corner, and he cared for the family. I want to do the same thing now."

To promote the pharmacy's services, Reiter has been placing ads on the front page of the local PennySaver, in which he also offers coupons. "We are trying to get our name out there," he said. "It's rough in the beginning, but we have had positive feedback from customers. They say, 'Thank God you guys are here. We hope you aren't going anywhere. We've needed you guys for a long time."

Overcoming competition

Lee Pinnell, Pharm.D., co-owner of Clinic Drug Store in Americus, Ga., has a simple formula for success: word-of-mouth advertising.

Noting that his pharmacy is located in a town with a population of 30,000 people where "everybody knows everybody," Pinnell has instituted many strategies to generate excellent word of mouth.

With CVS, Eckerd, Wal-Mart, Winn-Dixie, and Walgreens just a stone's throw away, Pinnell isn't taking any chances. He has installed a drive-through window and is in the process of installing a walk-up window. "Customers can park their cars, and they'll be two steps away from our pharmacy without having to come into the store. We'll be able to service from three different angles—the inside of the store, the drive-through, and the walk- up," he said.

Employing five pharmacists and nine techs who fill 1,000 prescriptions a day is also helping the pharmacy stay ahead of the pack. Keeping the wait time for prescriptions down to 10 to 15 minutes is Pinnell's goal.

When it comes to front-end sales, Pinnell said his motto is, "We care about your whole body—a healthy mind, healthy body, and healthy spirit."

In keeping with that motto, Pinnell created a Christian book section. "That's been a big hit in our town because people had to drive at least an hour out of town to buy Christian books or bibles. We're 30,000 people, but our town couldn't support a bookstore on its own, so it works really well in my pharmacy," said Pinnell.

Clinic Drug Store also features children's educational products and books that stimulate children's minds. "That's been a hit too, because you can't find these things in town, and it's different from what most pharmacies have gotten into," said Pinnell. "They have toys, but our toys are geared to a healthy mind."

Pinnell is also betting that remodeling the store will pay off. "A doctor's office used to be right next door to us; we're turning it into part of our pharmacy," he said. "We're putting in new shelving that was custom-built. Ours won't look like those in your traditional pharmacy. Our shelving is glass instead of steel and it shows off our products. Everything is painted wood. It's an old-fashioned style, and it's crisp and clean."

Pinnell has also allocated space for a kids' play area, which will be stocked with educational toys so moms won't be stressed out while waiting for their prescriptions.

Finally, Pinnell has his sights set on installing a 150-gal. saltwater aquarium. "The tank will be in the back of the store where the kids' items are," he said. "My goal is to draw the kids to the back of the store, to the children's section, where they'll see the products."