In a world and industry that increasingly seems to be embracing the concept that bigger is better, being small can have its advantages.
By Talbot Boggs
Photography by Monique D’Eon
That’s the theory behind Harbour South Pharmasave, which can be seen as a smaller relative of a much larger Pharmasave nearby – Spears and MacLeod in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.
Pharmacist David Cogan recently purchased the larger Pharmasave, one of the biggest pharmacies in the Atlantic region with a large dispensary and front shop containing an extensive home healthcare department. The pharmacy is located about three blocks from a medical clinic housing half a dozen doctors in a municipality that has one of the largest concentrations of pharmacies in its trading area in the province.
The town wanted to open a small pharmacy right in the clinic and put out a Request for Proposal. Cogan saw this as a great strategic business opportunity. “I saw a need for pharmacy direct patient care within the clinic and wanted to contribute that to the community. We wanted to extend the healthcare services we provide at Spears and MacLeod to more people in Yarmouth and this was an opportunity to do so.” says Cogan. “Also, I saw it as a great location to offer mostly services in a smaller, slower-paced environment that would be a great complement to the larger and busier Spears and MacLeod site, where it would be difficult to integrate services into the practice.”
Cogan won the contract. At 850 sq. ft. Harbour South, where David LeBlanc is the main pharmacist, is very small compared to Pharmasave’s larger format stores, and is considered more of a “health centre” than a pharmacy. One third of the store is front shop, offering “a bit of everything,” such as regular OTC and personal hygiene and healthcare products displayed on 24 feet of linear shelving that goes around the circumference of the store.
The other two-thirds of the store include the dispensary, a small compounding room where it produces ointments, topical analgesics, and suspensions for children and pain management compounds, an intake counter, a counselling room and small office.
Cogan has concentrated his service offerings on injections and medication reviews. He and his other two pharmacists have been certified to give injections. At the beginning of flu shot season in October the pharmacy was doing up to 80 injections a day. Last year, the pharmacy required patients to make an appointment, but Cogan found that added an unnecessary layer of administrative bureaucracy, so patients can now just walk into the clinic and line up for their shots. The pharmacy also gives Twinrix injections for Hepatitis A and B and Cogan hopes to be able to expand that into a full-fledged travel health practice in the future.
Although volume currently is low, Cogan is starting to build a robust medication review service offering as patients become aware of and comfortable with it. He anticipates conducting between 25 and 30 reviews a month by appointment only. As well, he offers blister packaging for about 100 individuals and 100 patients in local and area nursing homes, conducts diabetes counselling sessions. In addition, the pharmacy is a training location for Humira injections for Crohn’s disease, arthritis and psoriasis, which are administered by local registered nurses, again by appointment only.
Most of the time the pharmacy is staffed by only one pharmacist and one technician, but it can draw on staff from the Spears and MacLeod location if required. Even though it is located in the middle of a well-established market with lots of long-standing competition, patient and business volume is growing. The pharmacy cost about $90,000 to set up, and Cogan expected to get a return on his investment in three years or less.
“The great thing is that I have a lot of flexibility with this kind of arrangement,” says Cogan. “If things get busy I can draw on staff and resources from the other location. With the profession changing so much, you’ve got to find different ways of doing things. There can be a lot of advantages to being small and specialized.”