Pharmacy U

Al Chilton – Treat patients, not conditions


Rubicon Pharmacies now has 63 stores in Western Canada, including 55 in Saskatchewan. Most of the pharmacies in the network have been in business for decades. They are primarily located in smaller communities in Western Canada, and customer care has always been the number one priority, says President and CEO Al Chilton. “We try to operate in a very flat structure with an owner working in every store. My job is to look around the corner and see what’s coming.” Al calls himself “Rubicon’s canary” (a reflection of health issues he has grappled with). “I understand the patient’s perspective.”

Photo by Brandon Gray




Education:  University of Saskatchewan (Bachelor of Science, Pharmacy)


Current role: President and CEO, Rubicon Pharmacies Canada Inc., Regina




What makes you want to get up each morning and head to work?


I have been in the pharmacy profession since the 1970s. For more than 40 years, with my partners, we owned and managed two pharmacies in Swift Current, Sask. When merged they became the largest Pharmasave operation in Canada. It was an exciting time to be in pharmacy – and it remains an exciting time. At Rubicon, we believe we have something unique to offer. We developed Rubicon “university” for staff training. We take all new pharmacy graduate employees to an annual retreat in a provincial park. We eat s’mores, socialize, have classes, and discuss the future of pharmacy together. We want to build a different business model for pharmacy. Our job in the office is to support the frontline team to provide patients with what they need.


If you could change one thing in the profession, what would it be?


I would make sure people believed, “Yes, you can. You can change the profession. You can make a difference.” I would like to see more emphasis placed on building a relationship of trust with patients. Most people know their doctor’s name. They do not know their pharmacist’s name. It’s critical for pharmacists to build a trusting relationship. No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.


Why is customer loyalty so important in the current climate?


Real loyalty is relationship-based. Without a strong relationship, people will move down the street.



What can pharmacists do to create greater customer loyalty?


We need to understand the person first as a person, not as a patient. You don’t treat conditions, you treat patients, and this can increase the use of the pharmacy and our services. If you build it right, you should be able to charge admission to your store.


What advice would you give to young pharmacists looking to make a difference in the lives of their patients?


Look for ways to talk with patients and remember to listen. Give patients a chance to say what works for them, then work to meet those needs. At Rubicon, we developed SIMPL, which includes a packaging solution. The focus is not medical; no one wants to be sick. Instead, packaging needs to be aspirational. The first thing patients see should not be a cold, sterile label that makes them feel less a person. The program also includes a medication review and a care plan because we want to provide education.  That means we must connect with our patients on many levels.