Countering with service
To counter their lack of control of pricing, rural pharmacies excel with local service, Wendel says.
Rural pharmacists often have more time to answer questions and explain treatments and medications to patients, Wendel says. His pharmacy spends nearly two months every year working closely with patients to enroll in a Medicare Part D plan for their medication. His staff inputs patients’ lists of medications, prints out the report and consults with patients. The time-consuming service offers no reward other than helping patients, he says.
“We have to branch out and be very diverse and that raises the level of service we provide in small towns,” Wendel says, particularly with an aging population.
“We have an aging, older population in North Dakota who don’t travel a lot, don’t feel comfortable talking to automated systems, don’t know complex systems, but they can get on a phone to their local pharmacist,” Wendel says.
Through the N.D. Pharmacists Association, all three pharmacists are certified for a diabetes management program, educating patients, explaining insulin and the importance of monitoring, and working closely with doctors as part of the disease management team.
“It’s proven to be very effective in increasing health outcomes for patients and has shown to provide a return on investment for payers,” Wendel say.
Schlecht works closely with health care providers to find the lowest-cost drug available.
“Every day, I am calling and making recommendations to doctors to lower costs to patients,” he says. “I see people struggling to pay for medication.”
So, he offers options for generic drugs or finds manufacturer’s coupons for his customers. He also does chart reviews at the local nursing home and works with public health nurses and senior groups on vaccination programs and education.
It’s all part of the valuable lifeline pharmacies offer in rural communities.
“In a lot of these towns, the pharmacy is the only health care resource,” Churchill reiterates.
Luann Dart is a freelance writer and editor who lives near Elgin.