Alexandra White, Pharm.D., looks to carry on the pharmacy business and honor her grandfather’s legacy at White’s Pharmacy Inc. in Wiggins, Miss.
At eight years old, Alexandra “Alex” White would work Saturdays in her grandfather’s shop, White’s Pharmacy. Each week, she would help customers find items and help the cashiers with their chores. She remembers the way her grandfather, John Milton White, R.Ph., helped customers who might need a store credit because they were on hard times, or the way he’d run a promotion to bring customers in — in particular, the time he raffled off a pony. And she remembers his dedication to the pharmacy profession.
“Papa was the type, he was always in the back room on the phone, talking to pharmacy colleagues to see what everyone was doing,” says Alex. “And he was always trying to see in which direction healthcare was headed.”
Clearly, he saw the impact that technology was going to have on healthcare. In 1978, John White installed the first QS/1 system in the state of Mississippi, “which was his claim to fame,” says Alex. John White’s commitment to QS/1 was recognized at a recent customer conference, when Alex was presented with a bouquet of flowers honoring the family-owned pharmacy for 40 years as a customer. Alex accepted the award on behalf of her beloved grandfather, who passed away this past March.
John White installed one of the first 200 QS/1 systems in the country. “John saw the benefits and gave us recommendations on benefits to make the system better,” says QS/1 sales representative Dennis Antici. “He was not only a customer but a partner. He was extremely proud of having a computer and having a QS/1 system.”
White was one of those people who saw the benefit in the investment, not just the cost, says Antici. He was so sure of the ROI (return on investment), he would hang out at the QS/1 booth during trade shows and give demos. “He would reach out to peers to come over and take a look,” recalls Antici. “He wanted to share the success story of using the system himself.”
Anytime QS/1 offered a new product or feature, like point of sale and IVR (interactive voice response), John White asked when he could install it. Alex shares her grandfather’s progressive approach to technology. “Alex is ready to move the pharmacy forward,” says Antici. “She is also looking to be a partner with her system vendor.”
Like her grandfather, Alex is passionate about her customers in this rural community of 18,000. She looks for coupons to make their medications affordable and calls their doctors to check on prior authorizations, refills, and medication history. Many of her patients are elderly, with multiple disease states — diabetes, cholesterol, and high blood pressure. “Pharmacists play an important role here,” says Alex, who has the store registered to provide diabetes education and bill Medicare for that specific service; it is called DMSE (Diabetes Self Management Education).
“I’m excited. The main thing is I want my grandfather’s legacy to live on,” she says
The Next Generation
While systems have changed, and the nature of pharmacy is slowly shifting from billing for prescriptions to billing for services, the core philosophy at White’s remains the same: treat the customer like family. That family feeling starts with the staff, which is multigenerational and includes siblings working side by side. Alex’s mother and co-owner, Rebecca “Becky” White Pipkins, has worked in the pharmacy since she was a teenager. Alex’s father, also a pharmacist, works there too.
The store is half a gift shop, with candles, cards, jewelry, and a large bridal registry. The gift shop was for years in Alex’s grandparents’ antebellum home across the street from the pharmacy. In 2009, Becky moved the gift shop and pharmacy to its current location, which is about 3,000 square feet. Carrying on the family legacy of using technology (Becky installed a ScriptPro robot in 2009), Alex relies on a suite of interfaces to support her clinical programs through Amplicare, PrescribeWellness, Mirixa, OutcomesMTM, and StrandRx. Alex says she likes Amplicare’s customer support chat feature and its support of Medicare Part D plan enrollment, as well as its checking on the pharmacy’s performance rates, which helps minimize DIR (direct and indirect remuneration) fees. She wants her customers to understand the relationship between lifestyle and healthcare.
“There are more drugs, more disease states, more people,” she says. “Before, you might get a medication for an acute illness, but now we are treating disease states. We are now seeing our patients more often than Papa did. We can see our patients three days a week or more.”
Times haven’t changed, though, when it comes to the White’s combination of personal connection backed by technology. Alex says she hopes the pharmacy systems give her more access to data shared with doctors and hospitals. She has gotten involved with CPESN (Community Pharmacy Enhanced Services Network) and sees the benefits of collaborative relationships with hospitals. “I would hope we are more integrated with healthcare. That’s what CPESN wants. Then we can call a patient and say ‘Hey, you got out of the hospital. Let’s go over what happened — what are your medications, and can we help set up an appointment with your primary care physician?’” she says. “I’m optimistic about the future of pharmacy. It’s not about making a profit on filling a prescription; it’s for billing for our services, what we can provide to our patients.”
To succeed, Alex says, it comes down to family: “My mom is behind me 100%. And she’s giving me the reins to do what I think we need to make the store run better
and to help our patients live a longer, healthier life.”
As the next generation, Becky says of her daughter, “It takes someone with computer-savvy skills to keep up with the latest in pharmacy technology.” CT
Maggie Lockwood is VP, director of production at ComputerTalk. She likes sharing the stories of pharmacist entrepreneurs who use technology to find success. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.