More space allows pharmacy to expand into new services

By Ken Luchterhand

When the doors were opened for the newly renovated and expanded Black River Falls pharmacy in December, it also opened the doors to new possibilities.
With the added room, staff and services, the pharmacy staff projects an increase of at least 50 percent to double in business.
“We have much more space now,” said Pharmacy Manager Lt. James G. Buel, PharmD, RPh. “In the former pharmacy, it was so small that it had gotten to the point where we were literally tripping over each other.”
Now, moving into the expanded and renovated facility has meant that they can do things more efficiently, plus offering new and more services.
In fact, the changes have made it possible to hire two more pharmacists.
Melanie “Lanie” Hanson will be starting on May 15. She was a student pharmacist at the BRF pharmacy last summer and she was interested in coming back on a permanent basis. She returned to school to finish her education, graduated on May 13, and will be returning to the Ho-Chunk Pharmacy.
Anand Valthur also will be coming to work at the Ho-Chunk Pharmacy, having served as a pharmacist for a number of years at Camp Pendleton, near San Diego. He has family living in Illinois.
“Also, we will be adding one or two more pharmacy technicians sometime down the road,” Buel said.
A benefit to the expansion gain will be adding another Script Pro, a robotic unit that refills prescriptions for the most common medications.
Mail order prescriptions makes up a large portion of the customer service provided by the pharmacy and plans those orders will grow.
Plans are being set in motion to make it a requirement for tribal members and employees to receive standard maintenance prescriptions, such as for diabetes, blood pressure or cholesterol, from the BRF Ho-Chunk Pharmacy, instead of outside sources. This will mean an increase in mail order business for the pharmacy.
Another projected increase in services is being able to provide prescriptions in blister packs. Buel said that they hope to be able to obtain blister packaging equipment sometime next year, either automated or a simple hand-operated model, which will allow them to package together medications of various types. In this manner, a person can pop open a blister and receive all the medications needed at a certain time, rather than gather various pills from different bottles.
The pharmacy expansion also provides a private counseling room. This room can be used for medication therapy management, which is counseling session so that a client and a professional can sit down and review the medications being taken. By doing so, a pharmacist can discuss with the person if any possible drug interactions or can occur. This can happen when prescriptions are being provided from different doctors. Another concern may be side effects from a certain prescription.
“We want to sit down and review the prescriptions and see if they are appropriate,” Buel said.
The pharmacy is a hustling, bustling place – always busy. It stays open until 5 p.m., which is a half hour later than the clinic so that it can fill any prescriptions from patients seen by doctors later in the day.
They close during lunch because a pharmacist must be present during all open hours and the pharmacist need to take a lunch break. However, that will change once they have the two new pharmacists on staff. They will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with pharmacists taking a staggered scheduling.
With the added space, they will be able to have a better grasp of inventory control and reduce the potential for errors, Buel said.
A further benefit of the expansion is having a storage space within their own immediate facility. Previously, the storage space was a closet near the optical center. In addition, records storage is more immediately accessible, instead of being stored a distance away.
New refrigerators have made it possible to increase the volume of medications that need to be kept cool. Freezer compartments enable them to store the freezer packs that are needed to send with medications that need cooling to keep them stable.
More space also means they have a larger inventory of packaging material, including insulated boxes, to make mailing maintenance prescriptions safer and more convenient.
With prescription medication costs always on the rise, the Ho-Chunk Pharmacy staff strives to keep costs low for both the Nation and the patient.
“We are constantly working with drug contracts, looking for the best prices on quality medications,” Buel said. “We spend a good amount of time reviewing information with vendors. It’s good stewardship of the tribal funds.”