Michael Muñiz, compounding pharmacist of Muñiz Rio Grande, is determined to stay in school for the rest of his life.
“Never stop learning,” he concludes as our conversation ends. “Once you stop learning, you may as well stop being a pharmacist.”
With adherence and compliance on the rise in pharmacy news, patient education has taken on a new meaning. However, Michael explains how his practice goes beyond pills for treatment, and, perhaps patients aren’t the only ones who need the education.
Muñiz Rio Grande Pharmacy is a family effort – Michael rubs shoulders with his uncle, wife, cousins, and other family members daily at the pharmacy. This familial atmosphere is passed along to each customer. “After all, you never know who’s going to walk through that door, or what kind of issues or problems they have,” says Michael.
Nevertheless, the Muñiz family is running a business, and their product isn’t what you would expect. “Even though I am a pharmacist,” Michael explains, “I will find alternative ways to keep you healthy. My business isn’t selling pills, it’s to try and make you healthy again.” As pharmacists, he and his cousin, Bobby, are always educating themselves on the latest in health news. They both received training from PCCA (Professional Compounding Centers of America), which opened their eyes to innovative forms of medicine. Then, to expand their repertoire of innovative medicine, Michael and Bobby received their fellowship in metabolic nutritional medicine.
Patients have taken notice of their expertise in health and nutrition, and Bobby and Michael have become experts for everything related to nutrition and weight loss. Michael leverages his knowledge by offering health classes for his community. These classes range from a “Ladies’ Night Out” centered on women and hormones to stress management courses for business owners at chamber of commerce meetings. “Educating the public is huge,” Michael says. These classes reaffirm patient trust, which is an asset for a pharmacist. He also offers consultation to patients interested in losing weight. When he applied his knowledge to his own lifestyle, Michael lost so much weight (nearly one hundred pounds) that his patients and colleagues have noticed the difference. When they ask how he did it, Michael uses this as an opportunity to consult with them on their own weight loss goals. “They can’t get these kinds of services from their doctor, so they have no problem paying a fee because they know they will get their money’s worth.” Because of these classes and his knowledge of nutritional health, Michael’s patients often tell him they won’t go anywhere else because they know they can trust him.
This patient-pharmacist trust could be competition for physicians, but Michael has worked to make his pharmacy a local asset for hospitals who want to lower readmission rates. With programs like bedside delivery and medication synchronization, Michael wants to change the stereotype of pharmacists from pill dispensers to prevention experts. He cites a story with a local facility that was looking for monthly prescription refills for its patients. When they found Muñiz Rio Grande Pharmacy, Michael and the staff introduced them to med sync and educated them on the benefits. Michael gained sixty sync patients from that conversation.
Michael continues to reach out to local providers in his area to prove how valuable pharmacists are to the health scene. During our visit, we attended a local health coalition with the Texas Medical Foundation where dozens of representatives from all areas of health care were in attendance. Michael had the opportunity to advertise Muñiz Rio Grande Pharmacy’s flu shots, and how they were a mutually beneficial opportunity for physicians and local pharmacies. Afterwards, Michael was approached by many attendees who asked questions and exchanged business cards with him.
One of the essential elements of Michael’s success has been reinvesting in his pharmacy. Michael realized that Muñiz Rio Grande held around $750,000 in inventory on its shelves. With his software’s perpetual inventory and reports, they returned $60,000 worth of pills in the first cycle. In the end, they were finally able to cut their inventory in half. As tempting as it is to hold on to certain medications “just in case,” Michael advocates a lean inventory. “If you have all your money tied up in inventory, then you can’t make all the changes you need to grow,” he explains. Muniz Rio Grande has invested in more robots, delivery vehicles, more staff, and more education for the pharmacists.
Despite his huge impact on his community in Harlingen, Michael believes his biggest impact as an independent pharmacist is educating his patients so they can get off their medications and live a healthier lifestyle. He reiterates the purpose of a pharmacist: “If you’re one of those who’s just counting off pills and not learning anything new, your practice is going to die off.” As a pharmacist, educating yourself is more than staying relevant to the present. Use your knowledge and experience to create a future where you and your colleagues are the pillars of community health.