Excellence in Pharmacy Practice: Hoffner and team give her pharmacy a small town feel

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GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Thrifty White pharmacist Erica Hoffner recalls that her interest in pharmacy started early in life.  “I became interested in pharmacy during grade school. We had an excellent pharmacist that was caring and compassionate, he really strived to take care of his patients and was very involved in the community,” says Hoffner.

Erica Hoffner

“When he sold his business, I was in high school. The pharmacist that purchased his business help to pioneer telepharmacy in North Dakota and expand pharmacy services to rural areas to make sure there was access to health care. I was impressed with the pharmacy industry making access a priority and pioneering the way for people to have access to health care. Thrifty White still champions the same telepharmacies in North Dakota that I grew up with.”

She started working for Thrifty White nearly 17 years ago as a pharmacy student working in a long-term care pharmacy. “I graduated in 2009 and started as a staff pharmacist at a very busy pharmacy. I had a wonderful PIC that really taught me to focus on the patient and how our changes in the pharmacy workflow will impact the patients and the pharmacy staff.”

In 2014, Thrifty White purchased a busy independent pharmacy in a town that she was already living in. “I have now been the pharmacy manager here for eight years. I was fortunate to work with the previous owner for seven years and have been impressed with the community that we have established in this pharmacy. Working in a town of 60,000 we have been able to give our pharmacy a small town feel and know our patients by name,” she explains.

Hoffner notes that, first and foremost, the team of technicians and pharmacy clerks that she works with are amazing. “Now we have technicians that are able to provide immunizations, they have really embraced the opportunity to expand their professional capabilities providing the public with COVID and influenza immunizations. In North Dakota, we are able to utilize technicians checking technicians, and this leaves more time for consulting and education for patients by the pharmacist.”

She adds that her community has been grateful and receptive to the importance of providing immunization services. They are understanding and excited about the opportunity to receive these services at a pharmacy. We receive many compliments on our efficiency with both tests and vaccines, but we also have a lot of people that thank us for adding this service into our busy practice.”

Hoffner points out that Thrifty White is always on the forefront of providing patient care. “Thrifty White is very supportive in education and training of support staff, to provide new services and take on new responsibilities to better serve our communities. We have tech-check-tech to relieve the pharmacist of product verification. I have technicians that are able to administer vaccinations. Thrifty has provided training to technicians to help screen patients with open-ended questions that may need to be referred to the pharmacist.”

She adds that Thrifty White has focused on patient adherence with its Medication Synchronization/Ready Refill programs, which helps to have more focused interventions with patients. “We work together with other pharmacies in our chain to check prescriptions, and we have a wonderful procurement department that is able to keep access to inventory. I really do not have to work to find medications and can push work to our central filling site, which allows me to focus on the patient and their needs.”

Her pharmacy has a diabetes management program. The pharmacy provides A1c screening, blood pressure checks and important diabetes education for patients. “We have many different services that are equally important. We are health care providers that need to make sure we are able to do our part in our patient’s health care team. We are active in One Program in the state of North Dakota — this provides screening for patients receiving opioids for misuse or risk of accidental overdose. We are able to provide important education on these points. We are able to provide Naloxone if needed and provide medication disposal products and medication take back to properly dispose of unused and unwanted medication. We are also active in a repository program to help patients find medication that has been donated, to help keep cost down.”

Hoffner says that with its many points of access and approachability, the pharmacy is able to help screen patients for gaps in care. “If we identify any gaps in care, we are able to alert the providers on the patient’s health care team. We are able to work with the provider’s office to find what the patient may need — for example, a meeting with a dietitian or other health care provider. In addition, I have had doctors reach out to have certain medications or services available for a patient to receive the care they need.”

She stresses that education is the most important part of her practice. “If patients understand their disease state and why their treatment plan will work, they will have more positive outcomes. I provide education when patients come in for prescriptions or immunizations. I look at patient education as a collaborative partnership between myself and the patient and have a two way conversation in order to get their buy-in and take action on the information needed to keep them healthy. I also provide targeted education through MTM services, adherence reminders and targeted disease state management programs. Anytime you have contact to a patient may be a time that you can make a difference in their care. Taking every opportunity to have these moments is important. I really focus on having patients see me as approachable and letting them have easy access to me. This is also why I choose to work in community pharmacy.”

Hoffner says her favorite part of the job is being a part of her patient’s lives. “I like to have a sense of community in the pharmacy, where people can share not just their health questions but their hobbies and families. I think it is important to care for the whole patient, and we can provide positive outcomes by understanding them.

“I have worked for Thrifty White for 17 years. I am so lucky to work for a company that is aggressively working to advance the pharmacist role in patient care. The leadership here has allowed me to continue to use my clinical skills and have a positive impact in patient’s lives, but have also pushed me to advance my education with new MTM services and provide educational opportunities for new pharmacists,” she concludes.


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