Ahead of the curve, demonstrating results: Thrifty White’s dedication to patient care

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Ahead of the curve, demonstrating results: Thrifty White’s dedication to patient care

By David Salazar - 12/06/2016
When a company has been around as long as Plymouth, Minn.-based Thrifty White Pharmacy — which traces its roots to the 1884 opening of White Drug in what was then the Dakota Territory — there is an expectation that to stick around, it has to adapt to changes in the industry to stay in business. But rather than be content following its competitors’ leads in an effort to simply keep the lights on, Thrifty White has been on the front lines of adapting early to the biggest changes impacting the pharmacy business.

Thrifty White has been on the forefront of trends hitting the industry since it began its medication synchronization program about eight years ago. Since that launch, Thrifty White’s med sync program has grown to include some 65,000 enrolled patients whose prescriptions are filled centrally and picked up monthly. Also in the years since its med sync launch, Thrifty White has grown its Affiliate Pharmacy program to include 84 independent pharmacies, built out its long-term care business, entered the specialty space and unveiled a new store format that provides designated clinical rooms for patients’s appointments with pharmacists, among other efforts.

And Thrifty White has made all of this progress while remaining employee-owned and “continuously working at how you’re going to exceed expectations,” as president and CEO Bob Narveson told Drug Store News. For all of these efforts and its work toward delivering healthy patient outcomes while controlling costs in an increasingly costly industry, Thrifty White has been named DSN’s Pharmacy Innovator of the Year.

It could be said the first time Thrifty White was ahead of its time was when co-founder Mrs. H.E. White became the first female pharmacist in the Dakota Territory. But it became clear Thrifty White was ahead of the med sync curve in 2013, when alongside pharmacy technology provider Ateb, Virginia Commonwealth University released a study of Thrifty White Pharmacy patients that found improved adherence rates among patients enrolled in sync when compared with patients who weren’t enrolled. At the time, the company had enrolled about 30,000 patients, and since then has more than doubled that number. Thrifty White’s appointment-based model, by centrally filling a patient’s medications that can be picked up during a monthly appointment, puts the pharmacist, their knowledge and potential clinical services at the center of the patient’s experience.

“What it does allow us to do is sit down with the patient based on what their needs are every month, and we find out those needs about 10 days prior because we reach out to those patients and see if there’s been any changes in their drug regimens or any doctor visits or hospitalizations,” Thrifty White COO Tim Weippert told DSN, noting that based on this, pharmacists can offer immunizations or such clinical services as medication therapy management and comprehensive medication reviews.

“We can layer in all these various services that a patient might need, depending on what the circumstance is each and every month, so it’s a very high-touch, engaged process,” Weippert said.

This model is at the center of Thrifty White’s new Healthy Outcomes store format, which has been rolled out to 41 locations so far and includes two additional clinical suites to accommodate additional patient-pharmacist engagement — an element that the company also has placed at the center of its specialty pharmacy services.

Bob Narveson, president and CEO, Thrifty White PharmacyHaving received accreditation from URAC and CPPA — the latter of which opened up specialty pharmacy services to its Affiliate Pharmacy partners — Thrifty White Specialty Pharmacy has seen double-digit script growth this year, and the company has taken the model that’s proven successful with its med sync program and extended it to the way it fills specialty prescriptions.

“We’ve taken that same model and done the same thing with our specialty patients so that they can have face-to-face interactions,” Weippert said, adding that “the importance of the brick-and-mortar, local access and the patient’s desire to have that access to their pharmacist are all reasons why we do that.”

Thrifty White’s ability to fill specialty prescriptions locally and enable patients to receive their specialty medications from the pharmacy team they know has been one of the several jobs with which the company’s Community Health Specialists have been tasked. The team works in the communities Thrifty White serves, talking to employers — with whom Narveson said the company has had success — and physicians about what Thrifty White can offer their employees and patients.

“We’re going out and marketing our services and making sure they’re aware of all the things we do provide and can provide for their patients around medication synchronization, specialty and different types of screenings,” Weippert said. “We just want them to be fully engaged and make sure they understand all the services that are available within the community. It’s a community-focused situation. We want those people to enjoy the ability to have brick-and-mortar, face-to-face, local access wherever they want it.”

Tim Weippert, COO, Thrifty White PharmacyThe level of service that Thrifty White offers is, according to Narveson and Weippert, the result of the dedication from its employee-owners. Thrifty White remains employee-owned, with its largest shareholder possessing a 3% stake in the company. Every year it reinvests in its employees, cashing out exiting shareholders and reinvesting that stock into continuing employees. By literally investing them in the company, Narveson said its employees become more invested in the business and in the effort they put in to the success of the organization and patient care.

“Pride in ownership, and the dedication to patient outcomes and community, rises right to the top,” Narveson said. “When people first start with the organization and their stock ownership grows, you can see how their outlook becomes that of an owner. It behooves all of them to do the best they possibly can to take care of that customer and go the extra mile so they benefit the patient, the organization and personally.”

All of the factors that have made Thrifty White innovative — from its employee-owners and its early adoption of med sync to its burgeoning specialty pharmacy business and its commitment to patient engagement to improve health and reduce healthcare costs — have, to the company’s leadership team, simply been a matter of course.

“It’s not good enough to just be a drug store on the corner of First and Main — anyone can do that,” Narveson said. “If you’re not bringing value to the healthcare system and reducing overall healthcare spend, others will be. … You have to be continuously working at how you’re going to exceed expectations in those areas, otherwise you’re not going to have a seat at the table. … We’ve taken as a challenge to our organization that we want to stay ahead of that curve and make sure we’re demonstrating results that show we deserve a seat at the table — because the people who don’t show the value that’s required to be part of the overall picture in the future will fall behind.”