Topeka Pharmacy is community’s service center


Tom and Morag Miller

Define “American heartland” and the town of Topeka, Ind., could easily fit the bill. And independently owned Topeka Pharmacy, honored as Good Neighbor Pharmacy of the Year at AmerisourceBergen’s ThoughtSpot 2015, could just as easily define the concept of drug store as an indispensible fixture of small-town life.

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Located appropriately on Main Street in the center of this one-stoplight town, Topeka Pharmacy thrives not only by meeting a wide range of health and household needs for a strictly traditional rural market, but by serving as a center and gathering place for the local community.

That community, comprising about 1,000 households in town and in the surrounding farms, is nearly 60% Amish or Mennonite, making it “a quieter, gentler, kinder place,” said Morag Miller, who together with her husband Tom runs Topeka Pharmacy.

In business since 1988, the store tailors its services and product mix to local needs and customs, while staying abreast of healthcare advances with clinical services and the latest mobile technologies. Topeka Pharmacy sells Amish bonnets and baby clothes, and also offers Amish-made products. Among its other offerings are giftware; fresh flowers; a department called “Sara’s Attic” featuring fabrics, notions and Amish-made quilts; and an old-fashioned soda fountain called Crossroads Café that serves Amish cooking.

But Topeka Pharmacy’s central purpose, said owner Tom Miller, remains health and wellness. To that end, Topeka offers programs in such areas as diabetes education taught by a certified diabetes educator, weight management classes and more.

“The keys to our success are the connection to the community and the outcomes we try to give our patients every day,” Miller said. “This outcome can also be a Good Neighbor Pharmacy product ... [or] a place to have lunch; a place to come and talk to people; a meeting place.”

“We are the service center of the community,” Topeka’s owner-operator added. “And with our Amish population at nearly 60%, that’s important, because otherwise they literally have to hire a driver to take them somewhere else. So if we can be their one-stop shop, it works for the Amish particularly well, and it works for the English. And they all listen to us for their information. We’ve tried to carefully nurture that over the years.”

Miller called the resources provided by AmerisourceBergen “vast, and it multiplies our ability to be good to our patients and make those outcomes positive.”

In addition, he said, “The Good Neighbor Pharmacy logo is starting to get recognized nationally. That’s good for us. It sets us apart from everybody else. It gives us an identity that [customers] don’t get anyplace else.”

Coming up for Topeka Pharmacy, said its owner, is an increasing commitment to a higher level of healthcare delivery and more aggressive efforts to work with payers to establish standard reimbursement for its services on behalf of healthier patients. “Next for Topeka Pharmacy is getting paid for those outcomes,” Miller said. “We’ve hired a medication therapist pharmacist ... [and] a certified dietitian. We do [diabetic] shoe fittings. And we’re working on the next step — whether that [is] coagulation therapy, blood pressure intervention, or whatever it is — to become that provider.”

“As we lose doctors in our country, these patients have to turn to somebody, ... and they have to go somewhere,” Miller added. “We would like to be the answer to that.”

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