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More independent pharmacies are realizing that healthcare is undergoing a huge shift. According to Amina Abubakar in her most recent update, “As of 2019, value-based care is a mainstay.” Now more than ever, it is time to rely less on reimbursements and seek out opportunities to bring value and revenue to independent pharmacy.
Not only is the reimbursement model flawed, but our approach to wellness is dangerously skewed toward a heavy reliance on drugs, or as Josh Rimany calls it, the “pill for an ill” mindset.
Josh and his staff at Dilworth Drug & Wellness Center in Charlotte, NC, have taken a revolutionary approach to patient care: focusing on the root cause of illness, rather than filling more and more prescriptions to alleviate symptoms. To further this cause, Josh expanded the Dilworth team and hired a Registered Dietetic Technician Nutritionist (NDTR) to work alongside his pharmacy staff. Connie Mullis, Dilworth’s Registered Dietetic Technician Nutritionist (NDTR), has worked in the pharmacy setting for a year and admits to some surprise when she initially saw the job posting from a pharmacy. “Nutrition is basically against taking a pill to solve a problem instead of changing your lifestyle,” she says. “That was the first thing I said in the interview, but Josh said, “No worries, I’m actually the pharmacist who dislikes drugs.’ From then on, we hit it off, and I realized I could make a bigger impact in this environment than anywhere else.”
Connie’s passion for food and its impact on overall wellbeing inspired her to pursue nutrition in college, but she never felt called to the “normal” dietetic’s career. As she shadowed dietitians in the clinical nutrition setting, Connie knew she didn’t want to settle. “The work they do is great,” she explains, “but you’re not able to follow up with patients because they’re in the hospital for such a short period of time, or they’re already in the hospital & I want to help prevent people from getting there. I wanted something with a greater impact.”
At Dilworth Drug & Wellness Center, Connie provides nutritional education for patients and the staff in the form of assessments, Bio-Electrical Impedance Analysis (BIA) consultations, and helping people sift through the misinformation they encounter. Nutrient depletion is also an area where she offers insight and knowledge to the staff. “Coming from the classically trained nutrition setting, it is a little strange to think about supplemental nutrition because we prefer to receive all of our nutrients from our food, though that isn’t always practical,” she says. “I have been able to counsel people while working with the pharmacist here on their drug nutrient depletion and the nutrients they should be adding into their diet, whether it be incorporating more diverse food selections, or just a natural supplement that directly addresses that concern.” As a registered nutritionist based in a pharmacy, she most enjoys being a source of reliable information when patients are overwhelmed or confused.
By working in an independent pharmacy, Connie fulfills an aspect of being a nutritionist that normally isn’t experienced. “Pharmacies are the perfect setting for community nutrition,” she says. “This will definitely impact the community’s perception of health and wellness.” Josh and Connie work together to show patients how they can do so much more for their health besides taking medications. She has observed how the pharmacists she works with have taught her about drugs and their effects on health, and in turn, she has shown them ways to combat those issues with supplements and healthier diets.
Connie anticipates a shift in the healthcare industry where more independent pharmacies will offer creative services and will need Registered Dietitians or NDTRs. Doctors and pharmacists aren’t required to take many courses on diet and nutrition, which creates opportunities for people like Connie to step in and apply her credentials in an unexpected way. For those pharmacies interested in expanding into nutrition, she recommends simply reaching out to registered dieticians and nutritionists in the community and starting a conversation. This may lead to hiring them as a full-time staff member, or simply contracting their services in order to make their training available to the community.
“I believe pharmacists and registered dieticians should collaborate more,” Connie asserts. “There’s a partnership there that needs to be nourished.”
By working with other care providers, independent pharmacies can change the mindset of pills being the only means of wellness and value in healthcare.