Why Choose Independent Pharmacy?

We, as independent pharmacy owners, take a lot of pride in our stores. We often preach about what we do, how we do it, and so on. I thought I would take a little different approach to this and talk to my employees about why they would prefer to work for an independent pharmacy. They have all had a taste of working for a large chain, whether it was in the pharmacy or the front end of the store.

The independent pharmacy is much more family oriented and we all look out for one another. There isn’t a lot of strife among the staff. We actually like each other and enjoy being together. We make time for laughter and enjoy teasing each other. We even meet outside of work and do things together. The customers can tell we like being here and they enjoy being here as well. Sometimes they just stop to visit with us. The owner truly wants us to be happy and does his best to keep us smiling.”

The chain I worked for didn’t care about the employees. We were only a number to them. They only cared that we showed up and did our job. It really didn’t matter what we were going through. They talked a lot about customer service, but I never felt that they cared about the patients. Money was their priority and it was all that they seemed to care about.”

We can actually spend time with our patients. It’s not an assembly line where we do it fast, get them out, and move on to the next prescription. The patients enjoy the interaction and the genuine concern of the staff.”

I enjoy being part of a team. Everybody considers everyone else their equal. Nobody thinks they are better than another because we are valuable, and we are treated that way.”

Probably my favorite thing is knowing that our patients are our number one priority. We don’t let our customers go without their medicine. We’ve all went through hard times before and we understand that, and we are here to help them. We are part of the community, not just in it. We support our school systems and attend many local events.”

I enjoy working for an independent because if I have an idea or want to implement something, I can go right to the owner and he respects me and will consider my request.  At a chain, there is too much red tape to go through. There is also less unnecessary regulations and more independence for the pharmacist and technicians.”

All of these comments came from three of my employees: a pharmacist and two technicians. I have also worked for chain pharmacies in the past, so I know where they are coming from. It’s nice to work in a place where you actually make a difference.

I remember trying to start a diabetes education program at a chain. I paid for my own training, but I thought it would be worth it. I was told by someone higher up the chain of command that I could do the program, but it would have to be on my days off and I wouldn’t be paid for it. The prescription filling process was more important to them than patient care.

I realize a pharmacist can probably make a higher salary at a chain, have cheaper insurance, and have more benefits, but there is something to be said about actually enjoying your job. A study in 2013 showed that 50% of pharmacists were considering quitting their jobs and dissatisfaction was higher among those employed in community chains.  

Customers must feel the same way because according to a well-known data analytics company, independent pharmacies scored higher than chain pharmacies in customer satisfaction in a 2018 study. Here are some of the numbers: 

  • Good Neighbor Pharmacies: 903
  • Health Mart Pharmacies: 890
  • Rite Aid: 846
  • CVS Pharmacy: 843
  • Walgreens: 840

This study shows that people love their independent pharmacy. I believe the difference between independents and chains would be even bigger if it weren’t for so many people being forced to mail order pharmacies or certain chains to have their prescriptions filled at a lower co-pay. 

 I don’t believe the health care system realizes what an independent pharmacy can offer.  I recently spoke to a professor with a school of pharmacy at a large university. I showed her some pictures of the inside of my pharmacy and she was stunned because of the robotics we have and how “modern” our pharmacy is. 

Independent pharmacies have so many programs that health care systems and insurance companies should be seeking us out for their plans. We can help improve their star ratings with what we do. Maybe they should be looking at results, instead of those with the loudest voices.

 About the Author

Tom Kines earned his Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy from West Virginia University and a Master of Science Pharmacy Business Administration (MSPBA) at the University of Pittsburgh, a 12-month, executive-style graduate education program designed for working professionals striving to be tomorrow's leaders in the business of medicines. Tom has worked in retail pharmacy since graduation and has owned an independent pharmacy for over 10 years in Sissonville, West Virginia.