Inside This Issue - Opinion
Kerr’s Chapel Hill store: Simply the best
August 30th, 2010
by David Pinto
Much has been written of late about the emergence of the community pharmacist as a health care professional who is finally living up to his promise.
No longer content merely to dispense prescriptions and —when his patients really insist — give advice about the drugs that he’s dispensing, the best and the brightest of today’s retail pharmacists are becoming clinicians, health care advisers and patient counselors.
They have been abetted in this new endeavor by economics. The skyrocketing cost of health care has brought a new sense of urgency to their professional background and training while encouraging patients to view them more correctly as professionals fully qualified to advise patients on health care issues. In short, the community pharmacist is finally fulfilling the destiny for which he was trained and educated.
Much of the media focus on the emergence of community-based pharmacy services has been reserved for the independent druggist, that outpost of pharmacist-patient interaction that had all but disappeared in a chain drug setting. And, in truth, independent druggists have managed to coexist with their chain drug competitors largely on their ability and willingness to advise and consult with their patients about the prescription drugs they use.
But viewed in the context of community-based pharmacy services, the very best drug store in America is not an independent but a chain drug store in Chapel Hill, N.C. It’s a Kerr Drug store, and it offers its customers/patients every health care service that one could logically expect from a community drug store — but, until recently, despaired of ever finding.
At the Kerr Drug store at 1106 Environ Way in Chapel Hill a patient can have his drug therapy monitored and examined for adverse reactions, unwanted drug interactions and possible contraindications — regardless of where that patient has purchased those prescriptions.
Additionally, the qualified professional pharmacists on hand routinely advise patients about what they can expect from the medications they’re taking, what medical conditions they’re designed to address, how they work and whether they’re actually doing what they were prescribed to do.
But at the Kerr Drug store in Chapel Hill managing patient lives goes far beyond advising and counseling on drug therapy. Kerr’s consulting pharmacists and support personnel are trained to administer a variety of immunizations, monitor cholesterol and blood pressure, offer nutrition counseling, and advise diabetes patients on their medication and the state of their illness. More significant, if the patient has found no source of relief from the current course of treatment, they are qualified to suggest alternate regimens that the physician might not have considered.
To date, Kerr has opened three such health care centers, in addition to 10 clinical hubs. (All of its other stores offer some of the clinical services.) All operate within the environment and confines of traditional chain drug stores, units offering the conventional chain drug store merchandise mix.
But these health care centers are different, in the sense that the product assortment and the revenue that assortment generates are of secondary importance to the pharmacy services offered by a staff of trained health care professionals. At Kerr dispensing prescriptions is secondary to the very serious business of dispensing information and offering health care advice.
In light of the maturation of the Kerr experiment in community pharmacy-based clinical services over the last 13 years, this much is certain: It is what retail pharmacy must become if the profession is to survive as anything more than an appendage to the health care community.
All of which brings us to Tony Civello. Civello heads Kerr Drug, as he has done since a group of investors he assembled bought the drug chain 13 years ago. Before that, Civello, a graduate of University of Pittsburgh pharmacy school, worked for Thrift Drug, ultimately rising to the level of president of stores before that chain became part of the Eckerd drug chain in 1997.
Throughout his career, Civello has remained true to one core belief: A retail pharmacist, if he is to justify his education, his professional standing and indeed his existence, must do more than count pills and put them in a bottle.
In opening Kerr’s health care centers, Civello has put that belief to the test. If he’s right in his view of the pharmacist’s primary role in the new health care setting — and the belief here is that he is — community pharmacy has embarked upon its most significant journey since the days when independent pharmacists, pressured by the growth and success of the chain drug industry, began closing their doors for the last time.