Rx City Pharmacy (Auburn, New York)

2 - Rx City Pharmacy - AF

Rx City Pharmacy is a Local Full-Service Pharmaceutical and Drug Store, Where the Corner Drug Store Experience Still Exists.

Pharmacy owner Richard Pinckney takes pride in treating his customers as individuals, and providing them not only with prescriptions but education and top notch service. At Rx City, all the pharmacists greet you by name and are happy to help with whatever you need.
IPC:

Can you tell me about your history as a pharmacist and how you got started in independent pharmacy?

Richard:

“After graduating from pharmacy school I was working in the retail setting but moonlighting for an independent. I loved the relationships that independents had with the community. I decided I wanted to open my own store and flourish those types of relationships. I also wanted to enjoy coming to work every day without having to push the certain type of care chains want to push for. I opened my own store in 2001 and I was the only pharmacist with one technician. We opened in a medical center, in an old high school that we remodeled into a medical center. We were surrounded by doctors but the problem with opening in a medical center is that we were buried as a hospital pharmacy. We were there for 12 years and worked on relationships with physicians, but we weren’t really getting to the public. Many people felt in order to get to the pharmacy they had to be seen by the doctor in the hospital, which wasn’t really true.

We ended up moving out of that building a few years ago and moved downtown. It’s a city of 35,000 people and we’ve been able to open our doors to more of the community. We are more accessible and we thrive on the premise of caring about each individual patient. Each customer’s care is personalized. We don’t call our technicians ‘technicians’; we call them health care coaches because that’s what they do. They coach our clients in all of their needs.”

IPC:

It’s the same community, just a different location?

Richard:

“It’s the same community, just a different location that’s more inner city with a store front. Now people can see us when they drive by. It’s been a fantastic move for us, since we moved in 2015. It’s a small community, I was warned that there were already many pharmacies within a three mile radius, but none of them are independents. Bringing the feel of the corner drug store back to the community has been my overall goal. The pharmacist still opens the door if the store is closed, and goes that extra mile for the patient. The customers aren’t just a number, they are a person. Just last night we were called an hour after we closed asking if we had a certain drug in stock; the customer needed a 90 day supply, and they asked us to open back up since they had been without the medication for a while. We opened the store back up, provided her with what she needed and she was very grateful and appreciative. Those are the types of things we do on a daily basis. My cell phone is the emergency line and my clients can reach me at any time if they need anything. They are all extremely thankful and they love that we educate them instead of just dispensing to them. We try to educate them so much that they don’t have any questions when they leave the pharmacy.”

IPC:

What are the benefits of working in an independent pharmacy?

Richard:

“They no longer really even address people anymore in the chains, people really are treated as a number and they have no idea what good customer service is like unless they switch to an independent. I designed my pharmacy so no matter what door they enter though, front or back, the pharmacist sees them immediately and they are trained to address them by name. If you walk in my door you will be addressed, and from that point on you feel like you are part of something and you are cared about, which you are. You can find out more from a client by chatting with them just then asking the standard questions.

For example, we have a minor league baseball team in the area and a gentleman came in to get a prescription for Viagra. I asked him if he had any questions and if he knew how to take the medication and he said yes. Once we started conversing more about plans for the night, he mentioned that he was going to the baseball game and he hadn’t been to one since the last incident when he had chest pains and ended up having a heart attack. Once I asked him more about the medications he was prescribed for chest pain I found out he had a prescription for heart medication that would not interact well with the Viagra. Had we not had that conversation I wouldn’t have been able to warn him about not taking the two medications together. It’s those little interactions and conversations that can enlighten you to the customer’s true situation. In a chain pharmacy that wouldn’t happen.

In chains they never want you to stay in a store for more than a year, because you are more likely to develop ‘bad habits’ or go ‘off the book’ if you develop relationships. They move you around more because they don’t want things to get personal. I worked in chains for 10 years so I was able to see how symptoms can develop throughout generations, which helps diagnose possible issues. It’s important for pharmacists to know patient history so you can feast off of that knowledge. Patients need to be coached; they are much more knowledgeable when they are included in the process.

It’s a great feeling to be trusted. Every individual is different, we need to learn as much as we can and educate customers based on what we already know. You are able to broaden your knowledge base by listening, not only to the clients but also the other technicians. It’s a warm, nice atmosphere to be in. I might be able to make more money in a chain but the ultimate reward is being looked at as a knowledgeable resource in your community. We have doctors and nurses that call on us, even for patients that aren’t even our patients. We are very open to helping out anyone that we can. We don’t close until the last person is helped. We try to make the patient our main point and build everything around that.”

IPC:

Can you tell me more about the store?

Richard:

“We have a regular storefront with cards, cough/cold, vitamins, foot care, small DME section etc. Our pharmacy section is regular retail and assisted living. We have assisted living facilities within 20 miles that we work with. We do a lot of blister packs and bubble packaging.”

IPC:

What are some of the challenges of being in an independent pharmacy?

Richard:

“The main challenge is keeping up with change. Pharmacy changes constantly. As an owner you have to stay above the curve and be out in front. We pride ourselves on doing just that. With CMS and star ratings – we’ve been working on that since before many people even knew what they were. We were talking about synchronization and compliance packaging long before it came forward. Thanks to IPC and Parata pass, we have been able to offer that on the retail side for a while now. It’s eliminated pill boxes and increased patient compliance.

Even more important than the convenience, is the fact that it provides the opportunity for an interview with the patient. On a monthly basis the pharmacy calls the patient and discusses every single medication with them. We ask if anything has changed and how they are feeling. In that interview process we are finding more and more communication. More questions arise and more things come up that we can stay on top of. There is a whole cycle of events that happen with that type of communication; that doesn’t happen when you are just calling in refills. The chains talk about synchronization because they can give out medications by the month. They aren’t actually interviewing the patients and addressing questions. We are also monitoring patient compliance, we have weekly cards with morning/noon/evening doses and we also do pill boxes for those who are used to them and don’t want to change their system. If they let us fill it they know it’s been done accurately.

We are also getting ready to roll out a new project called ‘meds to work’ so people don’t have to worry about getting to the pharmacy on their lunch hour. People can actually eat their lunch and still get their medications without missing more work or taking time off. We are trying to increase our availability to the public; this will make it convenient for patients and will increase patient compliance.

Independent pharmacies need to always be one step ahead without losing site of the patient and what’s important. When I hire an employee I stress the importance of knowing patients by name and face. At the end of the day, the patients/customers/clients are our boss and that’s how they should be treated.

We’re no longer a dispensary; we’re part of a health care system. We all have to work as a team to make that work (physicians, insurance companies, pharmacists etc.). It’s opened the door to collaborative agreements with physicians’ offices, etc. We need to work together to serve the needs of the patients.

Our pharmacy is all about educating the patient, caring for the patient and making sure everyone around them is taken care of. The more people that have knowledge, the healthier the community.”

IPC:

How has your relationship been with IPC?

Richard:

“I have been with IPC for a while, you brought me Parata pass, dollar store, trial size, Burts Bees, and other OTC items. I was worried when we terminated with McKesson we wouldn’t be able to work with you anymore but then Tammy Riley called me and said we could work together, I was so relieved. Our patients just love the Parata pass; they need it on the retail side even more than the long term care patients. Elderly patients usually have someone in a long term care facility giving out their meds, but those of us who are younger can really use it to keep things easy and simple. I even use it for my kid’s vitamins. I’m also ordering drugs from IPC because they are so competitively priced. Not only generic, but also brand name drugs. You are helping me stay alive in this game that is always changing. I owe a lot to IPC, including Tammy Riley. I think IPC is a great organization and I appreciate all that you’ve done for me.”