Three elements of a successful pharmacy

January 15, 2010

A successful pharmacy practice rests on customer service, patient care, and career satisfaction. This story illustrates all three.

For me, the triangle is emblematic of the three important elements of a successful pharmacy; customer service, patient care, and career satisfaction.

I am not a pharmacist, but for more that 30 years it has been my pleasure to call on, work for, or otherwise support the profession. I think I have earned the right to make a few observations, with the hope that my comments will encourage pharmacists in all practice settings to think about how they link these three elements. I'd like to do it by sharing a personal experience I had of a pharmacist who has found a way to do all three.

My brother-in-law is a former Los Angeles police officer. When he retired about eight years ago, the family moved to Cedar City. About a year ago, he was hit with a major medical problem that nearly cost him his life. That he survived is a miracle. But as with all too many modern-day medical miracles, the ongoing challenges connected with his healthcare have proved daunting to his family. To help them, another sister who lives in the area has become involved as a family caregiver.

My brother-in-law's retirement prescription plan favors mail order. I try to tell my relatives that the plan does not require mail order but merely favors it. However, as consumers go, they are fairly typical, and despite having a younger brother who supports community pharmacy, they obtain many of their routine medications through the mail because it saves them money on their co-pays.

When my brother-in-law came home after an extensive round of rehabilitation, my sister, who also cares for a daughter suffering from neurological disorders, found herself overwhelmed by the numerous changes brought on by his illness and the need to deal with a whole new assortment of medications for her family.

Here's where Vickers comes in. This busy pharmacist sat down with my two sisters, charted out all the medications that every member of the family was taking, contacted the doctors involved, and even helped find drugs with lower co-pays. Most important, he made clear to the family members every medication they were taking, why each drug had been prescribed, and how long they would be expected to take each medication.

Never once did he point out that mail order provides none of this personalized assistance.

When I called to thank him for his help, he was polite, modest, and self-deprecating.

I think what Vickers has done is remarkable and worthy of mention. In my opinion, he demonstrates the perfect alignment of customer service, patient care, and career satisfaction. Building on these three elements has undoubtedly helped him build a successful pharmacy and career.

But Evan Vickers isn't the only pharmacist who goes the distance and beyond. Every day, countless pharmacists working in difficult professional circumstances do their utmost for the patients who depend on them. Pharmacists who may never receive public acknowledgment routinely perform their duties in ways that are remarkable and worthy of mention.

I share the example of Evan Vickers precisely because he is not unique. However, I hope his example will serve to inspire you who share his calling and to encourage you to continue to do what you do. Even if the patients and families you serve can't find the words to express their thanks, you must know that you have made a difference.

Bruce Kneeland is a pharmacy industry consultant and founder of PharmacyConnections, based in Royersford, Pennsylvania. He can be reached by telephone at 610-792-2477 or by e-mail at brucekneeland@comcast.net
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