SEATTLE — In an effort to bring more accessible and affordable health care to its customers, as well as its employees, Bartell Drugs has expanded its range of pharmacy services to include treatment for a host of noncritical medical services.
Starting last month, 12 of the company’s more than 64 stores began offering treatment for such ailments as insect stings, urinary tract infections, seasonal allergies, burns, human and animal bites, yeast infections, and shingles.
“We’re pleased to offer this convenient service to our patients,” says Bartells clinical programs manager Christina Ree. “It’s important that we utilize our highly skilled pharmacists to their maximum potential in today’s evolving health care environment.
“This service allows physicians more time to spend on complex cases and provides a more affordable option in which to spend health care dollars.”
The new services are part of a pilot program that the company plans to expand, according to Ree. “We wanted to start out small in order to test the program,” Ree says, adding that Bartells will assess the program at three and six months.
Besides providing Bartells customers with a more affordable and convenient health care option for these conditions — fees range from $15 to $25 — the program provides the same services to Bartells employees, at all locations, free of charge starting on the date of their hire. “It’s an added benefit we wanted to offer our employees,” Ree says.
Though this expansion of service had been in the company’s plans for some time, the timing of the program’s implementation proved to be a good fit with the current debates in Congress over repeal of the Affordable Care Act. “It’s just a good way for us to help reduce health care costs and provide better, more affordable health care,” Ree remarks.
She points out that, along with convenience and affordability, the services are practical, allowing patients to see a health care provider for these ailments without having to a schedule an appointment at a doctor’s office, many of which are closed in the evening. The new services will be available during normal pharmacy hours, all of which are open seven days a week, with some open 24 hours a day. Bartells pharmacists who work night shifts are also trained to administer these additional treatments.
Another plus to these expanded services is that they provide another option besides the emergency room.
Ree says Bartells pharmacists are already well equipped to perform these expanded treatments, but the company provides additional training to enhance their level of comfort in administering the services as well as their efficiency. “The training further empowers our pharmacists,” Ree says. “It’s just going the extra step.”
To help spread the word of its expanded services, Bartells is using email blasts as well as in-store signs — “aisle invaders” — next to over-the-counter medications. The company also plans to advertise on its website, Ree says.
Expanding and added services is the wave of the future for pharmacies, in Ree’s view, because it provides not only affordable health care alternatives for patients but also an edge for Bartells and other regional chains that are competing against such larger national chains as CVS Health and Walgreens. “We can’t rely on making money by just filling prescriptions. We have to be on top of it and keep innovating,” she says. “And if we can provide more convenient and affordable health care, then why not?”