When we first met Mike two years ago, he was exploring creative solutions to combat profit losses at Stillwater Family Pharmacy, the store his family has owned and operated for three generations. Low reimbursements and clawbacks are problems all pharmacists are dealing with, and the general consensus is that PBMs are the enemy of community pharmacy. Mike, however, has approached these issues with an entirely new perspective: low profitability is not always the PBMs’ fault.
Recently, Mike and his fellow pharmacists within Montana Family Pharmacies have expanded to an ordering platform. With PioneerRx and the right wholesaler contracts combined, these pharmacists have the tools and freedom to make purchases that are best for their business. “A lot of times, when you get paid below cost by the PBM, it’s not always their fault,” Mike explains. “Instead of just blaming the PBM, we’re looking at those low reimbursements to see if it’s our wholesaler.” The ordering platform allows these pharmacies to buy smarter and forego contracts that limit their abilities. As exciting as this opportunity sounds, Mike cautions those interested in attempting this without the help of a buying group. “If stores try do this on their own and their contracts don’t allow it, they can actually shoot themselves in the foot because they can lose a lot of their pricing guarantees from their wholesaler if they start to move purchases,” he warns. “It’s amazing how many store owners don’t understand their contracts and purchase agreements.” Montana Family Pharmacies currently spans five states and will continue to grow as more states express interest.
Within his own pharmacy, Mike and his staff are implementing lots of great changes. They now operate two telepharmacies out of Stillwater Family Pharmacy, which allows more rural counties in Montana to have access to patient care when it’s not physically available. The workstations have been moved into a separate room solely devoted to telepharmacy, and Mike plans on investing more resources to take full advantage of all the capabilities this practice can offer.
Locally, Mike has pursued disease state management contracts with employers and providers. This gives neighboring independent pharmacies the opportunity to offer their services to the employees of local businesses and increase their practice and revenue. Mike wants community pharmacies to embrace all the possibilities this provides. “Disease state management is designed by what’s best for each employer and the needs they’re seeing and how we can leverage our independent pharmacists to manage these patients,” Mike says. “We’re giving them the tools to make sure they’re having the right conversations but not limiting it to education; we’re offering other services like manufacturer copay assistance cards, reduced cost in supplies, and access to other healthcare educators.” Mike has even involved the University of Montana School of Pharmacy in disease state management. Because they have more available time, the faculty and students work together to extend their care to complex or remote patients.
With all of the upcoming change he anticipates within the industry, Mike believes that pharmacy isn’t a vocation to be taken lightly, anymore. As pharmacy owners, it’s time to embrace new methods to ensure healthier patients and profitable businesses. “The stores that want to complain about this are going to be the ones that struggle,” he asserts. “The stores that are willing to try creative solutions like smarter ordering are typically going to be the most successful stores year after year.”
Start from the beginning of Mike’s journey by reading his first interview.