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June 10, 2019

Independent Pharmacists - Elevating healthcare’s most accessible care provider

To my neighborhood pharmacist, healthcare’s most accessible care provider - a guest blog by Eden Sulzer
Like many of us Gen X’ers who grew up in suburbia (the land of fast food and convenience stores) I thought chain pharmacies were the only game in town.  While my parents picked up their prescriptions, I perused the makeup aisles and seasonal array of Valentine’s Day, Halloween and other holiday treats and trinkets.  Ask me what an independent pharmacy was, and I would have given you a blank stare.

A few decades later, I took a job in healthcare, developing marketing programs for these “mom and pop” pharmacies.  I began to get to know the owners. I saw, first-hand, their influence on their patients and communities, and their willingness to help people who were in a tough spot. Whether that meant staying open past business hours, bringing a prescription to the patient’s home or spending time educating the patient or caregiver, they gave of themselves quietly and unassumingly.  Their motivation wasn’t financial gain; they felt compelled to help people. They were accessible and actively involved in their communities.

Research has shown that 69 percent of Americans visit their pharmacy at least every month, and 64 percent think of their pharmacist as part of their healthcare team.  Imagine if more Americans visited an independent pharmacy, where success is not measured by the amount of prescriptions filled, but by the health outcomes experienced by the patient.

My tough spot happened in October of 2014. At my son’s annual check-up (he was 10 at the time,) I told his pediatrician that he had become incredibly thirsty, gulping down water before bedtime, then running to the bathroom.  She suggested we run a quick test. When she returned to the exam room, she told us that his blood glucose level was in the high 400’s, likely caused by Type 1 diabetes, which means the body does not produce insulin. (There is no cure for Type 1 at this time, but people with the disease can lead happy, healthy lives with insulin therapy and medical care. )

A friend of mine compares having a child recently diagnosed with Type 1 to having a newborn.  We hunkered down at the endocrinologist’s office for the next few days, learning how to give him insulin shots, count carbs and treat low and high blood sugars.  The doctor called in all of the prescriptions and supplies: insulin pens, test strips, lancets, alcohol wipes, emergency kit, Keto strips, glucose tabs, and more. At the time, we were still using a chain pharmacy. I walked up to the counter and was handed three large bags and a stack of leaflets.  The rest was up to me.

I knew we needed more.  I transferred my prescriptions to my local independent, Hope Pharmacy, which delivers our meds and calls me, personally, when it’s time to refill.  The owner, Afua Nutor, looks for ways to keep our costs down, whether it’s through a manufacturer discount program, or a generic drug. She immediately responds to my phone calls and texts.  She always asks about my son. She knows my family, and I know hers.

More recently, I’ve had the privilege of seeing Emlah Tubuo, who I met last year, open her first pharmacy.  Her story of determination and grit inspires me, and I thought everyone should hear it. My colleagues at Updox agreed, so we filmed a short documentary about her.  Emlah has already established herself as a trusted resource in the brief time since her doors opened, and I fully expect she will elevate the level of care people seek, and receive, from their pharmacist.

I suggest you get to know your local independent pharmacist, and see for yourself what a difference it will make in your health, and your life.  

About the Author - Eden Sulzer is a consultant for Updox with a passion for independent pharmacy, and, in particular, increasing the number of female pharmacy owners.  She has more than 20 years of marketing and communications experience in agency and corporate settings, and is based in Columbus, Ohio.

Topics: Pharmacy, Pharmacists, Blog, communication, engagement, pharmacies