Magazine article Drug Topics

2012 Independent Innovators

Magazine article Drug Topics

2012 Independent Innovators

Article excerpt

Successful pharmacies aren't ashamed to steal - and share

Successful pharmacists steal. They don't steal product, customers, or even employees. The most successful pharmacists steal ideas, play with them, and come up with new solutions to local challenges. And sometimes those new solutions win big awards as well as market share.

"I didn't come up with the idea of giving away free vitamins to build my customer base and sales," said Marty Bigner, PharmD, president of Thrift Drug in McComb, Miss. "I got it from another pharmacist at a conference a few years ago."

"I liked the idea of getting more patients, but I couldn't see giving bottles of vitamins to everybody who walked in the front door and hoping they'd remember me. So I took his idea and changed it around for what I though would work in my community."

The Free Vitamin Club

Bigner's solution was a Free Vitamin Club. Instead of giving free vitamins to anyone, the Free Vitamin Club provides a free 30-day supply of chewable children's vitamins to kids 2 to 12 years of age. Parents sign their children up, and 3 weeks later, the pharmacy sends a reminder for a free 30-day refill.

In July, the Free Vitamin Club won top honors in the annual Cardinal Health Best Practice Competition for Retail Pharmacy.

"Kids are more in need than any segment of our population," Bigner told Druß Topics. "I'm offering parents an easy way to do the right thing for their kids without spending a dime. It brings parents back to the store at least every 30 days for the next free refill. And when they need a prescription filled or an over-the-counter product in-between times, we're the store they think of."

Return on investment

The Vitamin Club isn't free for Thrift Drug. The independent pharmacy pays 89 cents per bottle for private-label vitamins. That's $10.69 per child per year, plus the cost of flyers and advertising.

Bigner also invested time writing and sending press releases to local media and giving interviews.

The effort paid off, because he appeared on the front page of the local newspaper and was featured on local radio programs. Over the past year, his pharmacy has brought in about 300 children. The typical family in McComb has two or three children.

"I've picked up more than 100 new families as regular patients at a cost of less than 90 cents per child per month," Bigner said.

"That creates new sales at the prescription counter, in OTCs, and for the front end. There are no tricks, no gimmicks, no surprises for anybody. It's as easy to explain to a cashier as it is to a parent."

Different town, different target

In Nampa, Idaho, Kevin Reddish, PharmD, swiped a different idea. When an outside provider fumbled a program to deliver immunizations to local teachers, Reddish grabbed the idea and cashed in. In the first year, he boosted his influenza immunizations from 200 to more than 850 and enrolled more than 250 new patients in an auto-refill program. He is already expanding the Teacher Immunization program to outlying schools. Reddish Pharmacy was a runner-up for the Cardinal Health award.

"I have kids in the local schools and I already support school activities, so I know how busy the teachers are," Reddish said. "When I heard that the outside provider was only offering one immunization clinic on one day for every five schools, I offered to do a clinic at each school. A week later, I was booked for all of October and the first two weeks of November."

Each school handles teacher sign-up and scheduling, he continued. He knows precisely how many doses of vaccine to order and has virtually zero no-shows. And because teachers and their dependents are all covered by the same health plan, he can prepare billing in advance and process claims for an entire school in one batch.

As long as he's there . . .

"That common health plan made me think about refills," Reddish continued. …

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