Kyle McCormick had been dreaming of opening his own pharmacy and implementing a cost-plus membership model aimed to save his patients money by cutting out the middleman. After all the researching and planning, that day finally came this March when he opened Blueberry Pharmacy in West View, PA.
Then just one week later – Pennsylvania announced a statewide stay-at-home order.
Despite the unexpected circumstances, McCormick has been pushing forward to get his pharmacy running and show his community the benefits of using his unique pharmacy.
“It’s definitely been a challenge. I mean, things as simple as getting promotional materials printed or things like that – just don’t happen,” McCormick says. In order to reach people in his area, he started promoting his pharmacy on Facebook and posting in different community groups. But the scripts haven’t been coming in as much as he’d hoped. “Right now people just want their 90-day supply so they can appropriately quarantine. They don’t really care which pharmacy or what prices, they just want to make sure they don’t have a shortage on their meds.”
Luckily, his front-end has helped bring in customers for a different reason.
The current situation has brought in people looking for items like gloves, toilet paper, and thermometers. By drawing in these customers, McCormick then has the chance to tell them about his pharmacy. He is keeping an optimistic outlook and looking at this as a way to reach a larger audience.
The hope is that down the line, they may need prescriptions filled and remember to come to his pharmacy.
McCormick’s business model stems from his experience as a pharmacist battling DIR fees and poor reimbursement. He knew there had to be a better way to help patients get the right medications without worrying about profit margins. “We do what’s best for the patient regardless of how much insurance factors in,” he emphasizes. “Cost reimbursement shouldn’t be a factor, but I mean, it had to be in that world.” So he decided he would build a pharmacy where no insurance would be accepted – because it wouldn’t be necessary.
At Blueberry Pharmacy everything is priced at the base generic medication cost + a small dispensing fee, which led to the store being dubbed the “Aldi of drug stores”. No inflated prices or hidden fees from third parties, and patients can become members to get even lower costs. “It didn’t make sense to have such a high dispensing fee on multiple medications for the same patient. So that’s how I came up with the membership piece – they pay a monthly fee or yearly fee, and that dispensing fee comes down to $3,” McCormick explains. Through this model, he is able to help his patients pay the lowest amount necessary for their medications.
When I learned that Kyle McCormick is the only employee working at his pharmacy, I wondered how he is able to offer additional services like home delivery. Who is making the deliveries?
“That’s me,” he says with a laugh. “So that’s probably gonna be one of my first hires – a delivery driver.”
Despite some challenges that come with running the pharmacy alone, it’s helpful for him to keep costs down and be able to offer his customers impressively low prices. But he’s not completely alone – his wife is also a pharmacist and she stops by to help him out at the store.
He knew his pharmacy had the potential to be successful when he read another article on the PioneerRx blog about Good Shepherd Pharmacy’s membership model.
They have a similar structure where members pay a flat monthly fee and get their medications at little to no extra cost. McCormick read about their success and thought – ‘If they can get 1000 patients, I hope I can get 1000.’ “It was a kind of proof of concept for me,” he says.
McCormick is an avid reader of the weekly newsletter, Next Wave, and he is constantly keeping up with new tips and features in the software. He says he chose to open his own store with PioneerRx because he used the software in his previous job.
“Oh, I’ve used it for 5 years. I love it. My coworkers would call me The Pioneer Nerd,” he recounts proudly.
“I guess the biggest thing is I wanted something new and fresh,” McCormick says.
And the name has lent for some brightly colored marketing materials that really catch the eye.
The name is also unique and easily distinguishable – or so he thought. The most ironic part is how he got his first official customer.
“A script got sent to me and I was like, I have no idea who this person is. This might be an accident.”
So he called the patient and they confirmed that it was sent by mistake – despite the fact the store was the only Blueberry Pharmacy in the area. But everything ended up working in his favor.
“It actually worked out because the patient ended up filling their prescription with me,” McCormick reveals.
Blueberry Pharmacy may not have opened in the way Kyle McCormick had originally planned, but he is full of energy and creatively working around any obstacles he faces. He is adapting his pharmacy to the ‘new normal’ and is actively looking to help more members of his community.