RxSafe sponsored a panel discussion, “Opportunities to Expand Pharmacy Services & Profitability,” at the Pharmacy Profit Summit in Orlando earlier this year.
Todd Eury of The Pharmacy Podcast Network moderated the panel, which was composed of some of the best and most innovative RxSafe RapidPakRx™ owners who have become trailblazers by maximizing what can be done with automation technology, improving their local communities by offering blister packaging services, and strengthening their bottom lines.
Here are excerpts from the three featured panelists.
Joe Williams: RapidPakRx Owner, Pharmacy Consultant, and Owner of Brisson Drugs in North Carolina
Todd Eury: So, we are concentrating on profit. That's the whole purpose of this conference. This is not advocacy per se, although advocacy rolls out of it. This is about building profit in independent community pharmacy. Please tell us how you've leveraged technology, packaging, and positioning in your community in order to build those profits in order to strengthen your community.
Joe Williams of Brisson Drugs at work at his pharmacy counter.
Joe Williams: When I think about the successes that we've had in our pharmacies and the profits that we've seen as they've grown, I think one of the major components of that success and growth has been the addition of the RapidPakRx into our workflow. We were initially packing a tremendous number of patients into traditional multi-dose blister packaging. And we had just arrived at a point where we were no longer being as effective as we wanted to be. The amount of time that it was requiring of our pharmacists and technicians to keep up with that volume, we had become inefficient to the point where we were afraid of growth. And as a business owner, and no matter what industry you're in, that is a terrible place to be where you're afraid to add on more patients because you know, you're already staying two hours late, you're already coming in on the weekend, and we needed a solution that would help move us into that next arena, you know, where we could continue to grow and push out and start advocating for ourselves again to grow and grow.
"I'm shocked at the number of opportunities that still exist. You know, it's been one of the most rewarding things that we've done. And we never could have done it if we were still manually packing blisters. We had reached capacity. There was going to be no more growth. We were afraid to sell. The RapidPakRx has opened all of those doors up for us."
And so, by adding the RapidPakRx, we won back so much time in our day-to-day operations that we were reinvigorated to go out and expand into new markets. You know, for the first time we were looking at additional counties. We had been operating in what we considered our world, which was the small municipality that we were in, and say 10 miles in either direction. Now we have routes that go 50 and 60 miles out past where we live. And in doing that, we found more and more underserved patients. We found that there were more and more opportunities in outlying areas. And what's ended up happening is the RapidPakRx has introduced us to new physicians in new markets. It introduced us to nonprofit community groups. It introduced us to home health agencies that have brought us patient after patient. And that's allowed us to establish ourselves in areas that we never saw us existing in. That has also opened the door for us to look at purchasing new stores in those markets so that we could serve those patients on a daily basis in addition to those packages that we were taking to them.
Todd Eury: That scalability wasn't there before, where you had only, was it one store and then you expanded into how many different counties?
Joe Williams: We just acquired our fourth across two counties. We started with one store. This was a low volume store. This was your typical independent pharmacy that had been open for a hundred years, quite honestly. And, you know, it served the community that it existed in. Okay. And what we found as we started packaging, we started taking care of patients that there were other patients in other areas that did not have access to the kind of quality, service, care and expertise that we were offering. You know, we were going into their homes. They had never had anybody from a pharmacy standing in their living room before. So, we were going into the home, we were doing med recs live and in person. We were making sure that they knew that we were the kind of pharmacy that was concentrating on their success, improving their health outcomes.
I'm shocked at the number of opportunities that still exist. You know, it's been one of the most rewarding things that we've done. And we never could have done it if we were still manually packing blisters. We had reached capacity. There was going to be no more growth. We were afraid to sell. The RapidPakRx has opened all of those doors up for us.
We're doing things in a tenth of the amount of time that it took us to do it before. And we were doing it manually. And I always joke with every owner I talk to; you have way more money than you do time.
Time is always the rate-limiting step. So, whenever you can use technology to win back time, you're headed in the right direction.
Adam Robinson: RapidPakRx and RxSafe 1800 Owner, ‘Workflow Whisperer’ and Save Rite Drugs Brandenburg Pharmacy Owner
Todd Eury: I want you to share with the listeners what you're doing right now and how you folded in RxSafe RapidPakRx technologies to really differentiate yourself.
Adam Robinson: So, we were in the same way that Joe (Williams) was. We were using old-school blister packs, and it was just taking forever. And I felt like we weren't checking them correctly. And there was just a lot to it. So, we talked with RxSafe, and we pulled the trigger last year. It was probably a year and a half ago on the RapidPakRx.
We just transitioned our patients over to it. So, this past six months, I talked with the RxSafe team. They have a little marketing team together. They came out, met with us, they showed us opportunities we didn't even know we had. So, it's kind of like Joe, he had opportunities, but he didn't know until he got that one opportunity that led to another opportunity. And so, the RxSafe team came out and they showed us what we had even in our hometown that we didn't even have a clue about. So, you know, being this ‘workflow whisperer’, I decided to hunker down and change my workflow with what I had with RxSafe. And I'm fortunate enough. I have a standalone building with a full basement.
"...We were in the same way that Joe (Williams) was. We were using old-school blister packs, and it was just taking forever...this past six months, I talked with the RxSafe team...they showed us opportunities we didn't even know we had."
I just moved my RxSafe down in the basement, built a whole little long-term care, RapidPakRx area down there, put somebody in charge of it. We're working on that workflow now. I've got a GeriMed contract. No DIR fees with those. And so, I'm refocusing now on what I should have been doing a year ago. I just, it was so crazy. I just had so much going on. So, I didn't lose value in what I had, but I wasn't getting value out of it. I was breaking even. And now, I'm going to see that return on investment, because of what they came and helped us do with the marketing. And so, now I'm transitioning and we're figuring it all out. I'm not afraid to change. We'll change something tomorrow if we have to. So that's where I'm at right now with strip packaging. And then we're going to start expanding. We have a jail contract that we're trying to get right now.
Todd Eury: That's awesome. I want to also ask you about expansion. So, you're building these new processes. You're teaching organizations like a county jail that probably doesn't have processes. And now, once the reputation is set, you get a recommendation letter, and you start passing it to the next administration.
Adam Robinson: At the very first Diversify (show), I met a guy from far western Kentucky, and we started talking about duck hunting. That's my passion. Well, he's passionate about it. Well, he actually has a jail business that services over 25 counties in the state and an independent pharmacy. So now my cogwheels are spinning and I'm thinking, all right, he's doing the pharmacy stuff, but maybe he can offshoot some of his stuff that he can't handle to what I'm doing now. Now that I can show him that, I can do a jail contract. I don't even know what a jail contract looks like, but I'm going to be able to figure it out. So, you’ve got to be able to make that step and try it.
Easton Bryant: Pharmacy Consultant, Rx Grid Founder, and Independent Pharmacy Owner
Todd Eury: Easton Bryant, you are a rockstar and you have set some new standards with regard to supplements in leveraging strip packaging technology to brand yourself as someone who's really looking out for the health of your community. But more or less the quality of products that you're also representing. I need you to tell our listeners the story of your supplement buildout and how this is really trying to change the game in your community.
Easton Bryant: Sure. I'm glad to be here. So, when I made the investment for the RapidPakRx, I started thinking about how it's a decent investment and you’ve got to think about how can I leverage this in every way possible? I love the technology, love anything that differentiates us from what's around us.
I want everybody to see this, everybody to use this <laughs>, you know? So, for me, I think when the light bulb kind of went off with supplements, obviously we installed in June of 2020. We all know what happened in 2020, right?
Yeah, So, <laughs>, people start ringing the phone, you know? What is quercetin? What's melatonin? What is all this stuff? People started caring about vitamin D for the first time ever, which they should care about always.
"...going back to making this decision to go all in, first of all, just doing strip packaging at all is a differentiator...So, the first thing was differentiating ourselves from our local market. It set us apart. We're the first store to have anything like that."
So, we started putting together these protocols and doing packs, and we had one of the biggest employers in my small town, when a Covid first hit, it was kind of like taboo. “Did you hear so and so had Covid <laughs>?” There was one person that tested positive in that facility or in that company. And they were like, “We need supplements for everybody.” They have about 45 people on staff, and they were like, “Can you make us 45 of these packs right away?” And, I was like, “Absolutely.” So, I'm scurrying to get all the stuff together. And I took a picture of it because we had them all stacked up together and ready for them to come pick up. And they happily paid for it. And we do invest in quality supplements because (they are) totally different from a profit standpoint, obviously, and also from an outcome standpoint. So that was kind of the first time I saw what we could do with supplements. And then, you know, fast forward now in 2023, we've seen so many awesome opportunities come up since then. And we’re shipping them internationally now.
Todd Eury: But why did you choose that specific technology? Why did you choose the RapidPakRx?
Easton Bryant: Well, going back to making this decision to go all in, first of all, just doing strip packaging at all is a differentiator. But you know, we're in a small town with tons of competition. And just like Joe said, I've never looked at boxing ourselves in like, “Oh my gosh, we only have access to this many lives, this is never going to be anything.” First of all, I look at surrounding counties. And now what the reality is now is like, we've shipped to Japan <laughs>. So, the first thing was differentiating ourselves from our local market. It set us apart. We're the first store to have anything like that.
Todd Eury: Easton, you have fused the Amazon way of commerce taking place and what people expect because that's what they're used to. You have fused that with community pharmacy, with the personal touch. And I think that's why you're seeing so much success because you've met people where they are. They want to go on and order what they're going to order, but there's so much transparency in your system that they can pick out their own packs. They can literally build out their own based on your recommendation. So, there's the trust of the pharmacist, which you've capitalized on, number one, trusted healthcare professional, and you've leveraged the technology in order to deliver the infrastructure and deliver the services that we know Amazon's doing. And now you're competing with them and you're beating them.
Easton Bryant: Yeah. It's when I hear you say that it's all about value and if you're commoditized, then value just brings down the cost alone. And I'll try to create as much value as I can for our audience and our patients. I'm not looking at it from a cost standpoint. I'm creating value and by differentiating myself and providing something that I don't think many other people are doing or are willing to do.
Todd Eury: Easton Bryant, North Century Pharmacy, you're a champion of community pharmacy. We're so glad that you were part of this. And we thank you for interviewing with us and being here today.
Easton Bryant: It's been an honor. Appreciate it.