IPC Member Benefits

Doctor’s Choice Pharmacy (Upland, California)

7 - Doctors Choice Pharmacy - PH

Doctor’s Choice Pharmacy and Owner Purva Patel Focus on Strong Relationships with Patients and Physicians

Doctor’s Choice specializes in serving their community with fast, friendly, professional service and the highest-quality medicines and health products. Owner Purva Patel chose the location in Upland, California due to the large amount of physicians in the neighborhood. She has worked hard to create positive, long-lasting relationships with the physicians as a way to make Doctor’s Choice stand out among the many pharmacies in the area.

IPC:

Can you tell me about your background in pharmacy?

Purva

“I graduated in 2010 and worked for chain pharmacies. I was a little skeptical about getting into chains because I had heard stories about long hours and tough stores but I figured if I was an efficient pharmacist I would be fine. It turns out if you are efficient you get the hardest placement in the district. I was in a store where nobody wanted to go and the management was rough. I cleaned it up but at the end of the year it was always about unrealistic goals and negative criticism, not a lot of positive feedback at all. I didn’t feel like a pharmacist, I was working 12 hour shifts and I was pretty much a high paid technician. It was hard to even take a bathroom break. There was a lot of employee turnover and there was no quality one-on-one time with customers. I had no time or opportunity to council patients so I would worry about what happened to them after leaving with their prescriptions. It was chaotic and there was so much time away from my family and my kids, I thought to myself this isn’t why I got into pharmacy.”

IPC:

How did you get into independent pharmacy?

Purva

“I like talking to people so I wanted to be working in an environment where that was possible. No matter what specialist or doctor the patient is going to, the pharmacist is the last person they are going to see before they put medicine in their bodies. I care about the well-being of the patient so I need to be able to talk to them and counsel them. I took a pay cut when I went to the chains hoping I would have a chance to improve the process and that it would be worth it but in the long run it wasn’t.

I had a cousin involved with the Indian Pharmacist Association (IPA) and I knew a couple people who owned independent pharmacy so I they persuaded me to look into it. I knew opening a business was going to be a heavy commitment but I wanted to start looking into independent pharmacy and possibly just work for another owner. Many owners suggested I start my own pharmacy and they offered their advice and assistance. I floated at various independents for six months and decided this is what I want to do. I looked at a few pharmacies that were either too expensive or in the wrong area so I figured if I opened a startup I could start from scratch and not have to worry about fixing problems that I didn’t have a hand in creating. It was scary and intimidating but here I am. I opened the store in 2013 so we have been here for four years.”

IPC:

What made you choose the location? Is Upland where you are from?

Purva

“No, I was looking at areas where there is a heavy concentration of physicians. I was looking within a 30 mile radius from my house where it wasn’t super saturated. There were a few buildings open for lease so it just so happened that I fell upon this location.”

IPC:

Is it a small community?

Purva

“The neighborhood is in a location where I knew I could develop a strong relationship with physicians. It’s difficult as an independent to find patients in this area so I chose a neighborhood that is filled with physicians that I could connect with and build relationships with. I explain to them how I’ll take care of their patients. There are about 25-30 physicians in this quarter mile road and my pharmacy is right in the middle. My intention was to work with the physicians, offer free delivery and encourage them to send their patients my way. The relationship with the doctors is crucial for independent pharmacy.”

IPC:

What types of things do you do with the community?

Purva

“The first year we were open I became a member of the Chamber of Commerce. A year after we opened we did a grand opening. IPC and Pharm Fresh helped us out a lot with postcards and invitations; we had food and blood pressure monitoring and diabetes education. Since then we haven’t done as much, but we still do some things with the senior center. The Chamber membership wasn’t as beneficial to us because pharmacy is a different type of business. People don’t go on the Chamber website to search for a local pharmacy. I kind of decided to do marketing on my own; we did door hangers and tried to reach out to patients individually. We offered free flu shots and coupons and we tried Yelp and things like that but none of the patient outreach really worked out in this area. That just solidified the fact that the doctor relationships were the most key for us in this particular area. We didn’t get a lot of return on our coupons and door hangers. My husband and I did it ourselves to ensure that the door hangers and coupons were getting out there but none of them came back. It’s just not an area where we can reach the customers individually. We have to go through the physicians mainly because of the extreme competition in the area.”

IPC:

We appreciate that you presented at the annual IPC conference, were you able to stay for the rest of the event?

Purva

“I was able to attend most of it. I met several people that presented and did some networking. The resort was very nice.”

IPC:

Is there anything specific you would like to highlight about your store?

Purva

“We’ve been here four years now. We are steady, sustainable and growing. I have a pharmacist here three days a week so I am able to get out and do more things. We’re doing well for a startup in this area; it is a very competitive area. There is an independent giant in the area that owns about 18 pharmacies. Five of those are within a mile or two of my pharmacy. It’s a difficult area to survive; there have been three independents that have gone away since I’ve been here. We don’t lose patients. Our patients are happy, the doctors are happy and we have good relationships. The area has really worked out well for us considering the competition.”

IPC:

Are you thinking of opening another location?

Purva

“I have been looking for a couple years now but I don’t want to open another startup. It’s intimidating when you don’t know the neighborhood. I’m trying to acquire an existing pharmacy and I’ve looked at a couple. I’d like to expand but I’m looking more into specialty like compounding or something else (not retail). Not having to deal with insurance would be ideal.”