Outstanding Independent Pharmacists 2010

October 15, 2010

Each year, community pharmacists are recognized by their peers through nominations for Drug Topics' annual Top Independent Pharmacists awards, which honor 3 pharmacists or pharmacy teams for their contributions to local life.

Key Points

This year independent pharmacists show that they can provide alternative clinical care to those still shaken by the recession and can fill unique gaps within their communities as well. Such close community involvement requires them to wear many hats and address many different local needs.

Each year, community pharmacists are recognized by their peers through nominations for Drug Topics' annual Top Independent Pharmacists awards, which honor 3 pharmacists or pharmacy teams for their contributions to local life.

A reader survey brought nominations, and Drug Topics' board members cast deciding votes in the following categories:

Most innovative new service

Just 3 years out of pharmacy school, the son of 2 registered pharmacists and husband of a PharmD has already begun to transform healthcare in southwest Ohio. In addition to founding a pharmacy benefit management (PBM) firm, establishing a Suboxone clinic for opiate addictions, and helping to launch a local version of the Asheville Project in nearby Springfield, Fields opened the Fields Mini-Medical Clinic last fall, inside the pharmacy his family has owned for 25 years.

Staffed by Katie Fields, PharmD, who is married to Ken, and a physician, Terren B. Koles, MD, the 800-square-foot clinic serves area residents seeking a less expensive alternative to costly emergency room visits and high co-pays. For $45, patients can be seen for acute-care services ranging from pregnancy testing to treatment for colds, minor injuries, and mild ailments. More serious cases are referred to a nearby hospital.

"With the financial climate, especially after DHL left Wilmington, we had a lot of people out of work," Fields said. "I wanted to provide a place where they could go that wouldn't cost an arm and a leg to get in. A lot of people weren't going [to a doctor] for a twisted ankle or a cut, or if they had the flu. We wanted to provide some way they could get medical care at a reasonable cost."

He contracted with Koles, who receives a percentage of the clinic's earnings; she works from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from noon to 4 p.m. on Fridays. The clinic, which features 2 exam rooms, 2 offices, a waiting area, and a reception area, occupies existing space in the rear of the pharmacy's 3,000-square-foot building and is open all day for immunizations, blood draws, and other lab work. The physician's presence gives the clinic an advantage over a clinic staffed by a nurse practitioner 8 miles away.

Approximately half the patients pay cash, while insurance carriers or charitable organizations cover the remaining fees.

"People love it," Fields said. "They love the convenience, especially for the children during cold and flu season, when you often can't get in to [see another] doctor until the next day."

If a prescription is needed, it can be filled and ready to go by the end of the office visit.

The arrangement has been good for the pharmacy, which has seen increased sales of prescriptions and over-the-counter medications, as well as additional retail sales. The clinic has helped to draw new patients, retain existing ones, and bring older customers back to the store.

The pharmacists keep cost in mind when prescribing antibiotics. "We're not in there prescribing the $14-to-$15-per-tablet antibiotics. We have our $4 list and we try to do that as much as possible."

Fields, who in 2008 purchased Waynesville Pharmacy from his parents and opened Fields Pharmacy in a medical arts building 2 miles away, said students at nearby Cedarville University's School of Pharmacy will begin rotations in the clinic to experience the expanded role pharmacists are taking on in many communities.

"It is a rural community. We know everyone, and everyone knows us," Fields said. "We've been able to make it financially feasible, have good relationships with people, and bring people in we haven't seen for awhile. It's been an overall win for us."