Bill Osborn, president of Osborn Drugs in Miami, Okla., has watched community pharmacy evolve for more than 30 years since he graduated with a Pharm.D. from University of Oklahoma. He was installed as the newest president of the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) in October. In this interview with ComputerTalk’s Maggie Lockwood, Osborn shares his passion for pharmacy, technology, and growing a business in a competitive landscape.

ComputerTalk: Congratulations on being named NCPA president.

Bill Osborn: Thank you! Yes, it’s been a 14-year journey, during which I’ve gotten to know pharmacists from around the country. When people congratulate me, I tell them I am successful because of the people around me and our philosophy at Osborn Drugs: Take care of patients, take care of our partnerships, and they will take care of us. I feel the same way about the NCPA. I hope it serves as a forum for pharmacists to come together and learn about innovations in the industry.

 CT: What do you feel are the priorities going forward? 

Osborn: As I said in my acceptance speech, we are at a point where we should capitalize on the momentum of the past few years. Three years ago we were talking about DIR [direct and indirect remuneration] fees, and no one knew what they were. Last year we spoke to our congressman about it and he asked, “How can we fix this?” The legislative work NCPA does makes a difference, and government agencies are listening to us. I think that has a lot to do with NCPA Executive Director Doug Hoey’s leadership and the staff. NCPA is helping pharmacists at the state level, as well as in the background, to make ownership a better opportunity. 

CT: What made you get involved with NPCA?

Osborn: Back in 1988, I was attending pharmacy meetings, learning about pharmacy technology. There was an article with the headline: “Independent Pharmacy Is Dead.” I asked my dad, “Should we be selling?” But we felt that if you could innovate and adjust to the times, you could be successful as an owner. At that time we had four partners and eight locations. We grew to 18 partners with 24 locations. It’s easy to be negative, and if we had listened to that article, we wouldn’t have been successful.

CT: What are a few times you saw an impact with a new technology investment?

Osborn: When we started with perpetual inventory, not many pharmacists were taking advantage of it. We looked at it, at our workflows, and made changes until we found a system that worked. We reduced our inventory spend by 30% when drug prices were going up 10% a year. 

Installing IVR [interactive voice response] was a big deal for us. There has been no faster payoff than IVR, and it’s easy to customize. Now we’ve moving our phone systems to VOiP [voice over internet protocol]. At first it may seem too expensive, but when you add up all your replaceable ongoing expenses, you can afford VOiP. 

We have participated in PPOK’s [Pharmacy Providers of Oklahoma] eRecon program which allows us to reconcile electronically at the claim level. With robotics, we conducted a thorough valuation process and invested in nine SP 200s from ScriptPro. We’ve been using Computer-Rx since 2007; we’ve served as a beta site. My attitude is, if I could help a product evolve, it’s worth the effort. Adherence (Prescribe Wellness) and compliance packaging (RxSafe) are our current technology focus.

CT: Technology keeps community pharmacy competitive?

Osborn: Technology gives pharmacy the ability to adapt. When we first put in our RxSafe adherence packaging system, it was with the idea that we would offer it to patients. Now Amazon comes out with a packaging solution and starts calling our customers to transfer their scripts. But doctors can tell their patients, “You can do that at Osborn.” We make sure that we have alternatives and offer programs that help us compete with the big guys. 

When we first started with a new vendor in the late ‘80s, the accounts receivables module randomly added a nickel to the charge accounts. We called the vendor to have them fix it for the next month. Meanwhile, we put a nickel into the statements to cover it. That’s why I call independent pharmacists problem solvers. When there is a challenge or a change, you look at how you can fix it through your software, and you learn to adapt and make it work for your pharmacy. CT