Curtis Pharmacy has been serving the southwest Pennsylvania community for more than 100 years. With four locations locally owned and operated by Erich and Tina Cushey, the fourth-generation owners like to say they offer all of the benefits of a major pharmacy, combined with the personalized care and concern that comes from living and working among the families they serve in the area.
“Curtis Pharmacy makes sure people get all their medications, preferably all together, delivered, picked up, curbside, drive through, whatever meets their needs,” says Erich Cushey, RPh. “We try to make it easy to help them manage their medications.”
Central-Fill Model Made Possible by Automation
The pharmacy uses a central-fill model, employing a VPN and PioneerRx software to manage inventory and provide compliance packaging via the RapidPakRx™ to three separate locations.*
Prior to purchasing the RapidPakRx, the pharmacy used a manual compliance packaging system, but quickly reached a limit on the patients it was able to serve, Cushey says.
“It was very time-consuming for technicians to fill, very time-consuming for pharmacists to check, and it just got too big,” Cushey explains. “We couldn’t bring on any new patients. So, we needed an automated solution.”
Cushey and his team began evaluating solutions at tradeshows, weighing the pros and cons of strip packaging automation.
“We have seen different solutions, some of which use NDC-specific canisters,” says Cushey, adding that he ‘never liked’ that approach. “We saw the RxSafe RapidPakRx at the NCPA multi-location conference in 2020, and it just made a lot of sense for our operations. It was NDC neutral, so you could change generics without having the canisters coded to a specific NDC.”
“We decided to go with the RapidPakRx because it helped our technicians to do their job easier, it helped our pharmacists to check easier, and it helped us to grow our business quickly and tremendously,” Cushey says. “In addition, we'll package vitamin supplements and over-the-counter medications along with their regular medications to make it easier for the patient.”
Impact of COVID-19 on Pharmacy
Cushey, who bought the RapidPakRx right in the middle of the pandemic, said the technology has come just in time for many of these patients.
“Because of COVID, there's been a big push toward medical-at-home, and helping seniors age in their home gracefully,” Cushey explains. “The timing has been perfect because, as we brought in RapidPakRx and expanded our packaging business, we're picking up more and more at-home patients in our pharmacy, where we're packaging, going over their medications, delivering, making it easier to help seniors stay in their homes and be independent, as opposed to going to a facility.”
Competitive Advantage: Local vs Amazon
With the RapidPakRx, Curtis Pharmacy is able to provide a service that other local pharmacies can’t offer, while competing with giants like Amazon that have mail-order packaging options.
“The biggest advantage of us having a RapidPakRx is for us to provide a service that isn't otherwise available in our community, or is advertised by a national competitor along the lines of Amazon,” explains Cushey. “We're able to take that concept and apply our local service area to it and our pharmacist staff to that model, with a higher level of service, a higher level of touch, and it allows us to grow along with the demand.”
“Adherence packaging has been vital to the growth of our three store's operations...our pharmacists and staff gave over 25,000 Covid boosters last year, and a lot of those boosters were in locations, senior high rises, other senior living centers where a lot of the big chains didn't want to bother to go vaccinate, and we did...It led us to a natural database of potential new customers, certainly, people who could use our medication adherence packaging.”
- Erich Cushey, Pharmacist and Owner of Curtis Pharmacy
Curtis Pharmacy has grown its compliance packaging program to more than 600 patients, distributed among the three locations. He said the script volume at each of those locations has increased by more than 10%, year over year, due mainly to the RapidPakRx.
“Adherence packaging has been vital to the growth of our three store's operations. Truth be told, our pharmacists and staff gave over 25,000 Covid boosters last year, and a lot of those boosters were in locations, senior high rises, other senior living centers where a lot of the big chains didn't want to bother to go vaccinate, and we did,” Cushey recalls. “It led us to a natural database of potential new customers, certainly, people who could use our medication adherence packaging.”
It wasn’t easy. Cushey says that after doing Covid vaccines, the pharmacy team decided to do a direct mail piece targeted to all those to whom they administered vaccines, offering their services, offering delivery, and offering compliance packaging, which led to a lot of new customers.
But all those efforts are paying off. The pharmacy’s Washington location transfers in, on average, about 40 scripts per week, and 90% of those are compliance packaging patients, Cushey says.
“When we bring a new patient in, we're not transferring one or two scripts. We're transferring eight to 12 scripts per patient,” Cushey adds. “And if it's a husband and wife, now you just double that number.”
Final Thoughts – Top 3 Benefits
We asked Cushey what he thinks are the top three benefits of the RapidPakRx for Curtis Pharmacy.
“So, the top three impacts of adding RapidPakRx to our pharmacy have been explosive prescription count growth, improved gross margin, and patient satisfaction,” Cushey says. “To a person, the patients love it. We have children living out of state who now have their parents enrolled in our program, and their parents are taking their meds. Their parents are comfortable staying in their own home with a child much farther away knowing that we're helping to manage their medication.”
“RapidPakRx has really helped us to grow our business while helping our patients in the community,” he concludes. “It really is a very well thought out machine. It really sells itself to your community.”
If you’re interested in learning more about pouch packaging automation for central fill or stand-alone pharmacies, contact RxSafe at 866-393-3944 to speak with an adherence packaging expert, or click here to learn more how RapidPakRx can grow your pharmacy’s business while improving the health of your patients.
*NOTE: between the time RxSafe interviewed Erich Cushey and this blog’s publication date, Curtis Pharmacy added a fourth location in Carmichaels, Pa.