Over a year has passed since we met Michael Muñiz, a compounding pharmacist and nutrition expert, at Muñiz Rio Grande Pharmacy in Harlingen, Texas. At the time, Michael focused on offering health consultations and educational opportunities to his patients. Lately, pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) and direct and indirect remuneration (DIR) fees have had a negative impact on community pharmacies, and Muñiz Rio Grande Pharmacy is no exception. Michael and the Muñiz family, however, are challenging these obstacles with creative strategies to make sure their doors stay open.
Patient education is a major factor in Michael’s practice. The diet coaching and the health classes he offers through the pharmacy have made him a go-to knowledge source. Recently, he has used Part D Open Enrollment as another way to keep his patients informed and his drug costs down. “If you’re not watching your Part D plans, then you’re going to have some issues,” he advises. “We use iMedicare to help navigate plans and find the best ones for our patients.” Michael notes that, of course, he never tells his patrons which plans they should choose. Instead, he lets the numbers speak for themselves, and his enrollees ultimately choose the Part D plan they think is best. Taking the time to find different plans and explain them to his patients solidifies the relationships Michael has built in his practice.
Michael and his cousin, Bobby, have continued to expand their weight loss consultation program. Last year, Michael proudly reported that following his own program led to him losing over 100 pounds. His personal achievement has attracted a lot of attention from customers who have asked for dietary advice. Now, Michael and Bobby have successfully expanded to sports performance consultations. “We recently worked with a triathlete on his nutrition, and he actually did an hour and a half better on his Ironman. After a consultation with us and some changes in his nutrition, he finally beat his personal best!” Michael boasts. He and Bobby are currently preparing a workshop on the Ketogenic Diet where he will share his personal experience with ketosis with the Harlingen community.
Along with diversifying his services, Michael also looks for ways to better manage spending in the pharmacy. As tempting as it may be to keep extra items on hand “just in case,” Michael advocates for a lean inventory. He conducts regular checks to make sure none of his on-hands have gone unopened. If he finds unused supplies, he sends it back to the wholesaler for a refund. His most recent check showed he had $17,000 worth of medications to return. The money saved can be used for other pharmacy expenses like delivery drivers, remodelling, or in Michael’s case, earning a certification to offer more services. Inventory checks are especially beneficial at the end of the year to make sure your balances are squared away for the final quarter.
For 2018, Michael’s goal is to continue expanding his weight loss program. He plans to offer meal replacements to increase revenue, and he will target more diabetics. “We currently have reversed diabetes in ten patients with changes in their diet alone and some supplementation,” he explains. This presents an opportunity to build relationships and collaborate with local physicians to provide more in-depth care for their mutual patients.
In this era of pharmacy when the headlines focus on the negatives, independent pharmacists are rising to the occasion to stay innovative and profitable. “If independent pharmacists are not diversifying their business, it’s going to be a matter of time before they have to sell out to someone who is more worried about volume than true patient care,” Michael says. No matter what obstacles threaten their profits, Michael and his team members at Muñiz Rio Grande will always be ready with new ideas and strategies to keep their community healthy and their pharmacy thriving.
Start from the beginning of Michael’s journey! Read his first interview here.