Lack of visibility belies impact of regional group

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Lynne Fruth

Lynne Fruth

POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — Though it’s been around since 1980, the Southern Drug Store Association (SDSA) doesn’t receive as much press as other industry organizations, but that doesn’t mean the work that it does is any less important.

SDSA is comprised of regional chains, not just in the South but across the country, and each year the various members, with a member chain as host, meet to discuss ideas and share information with the goal of better serving their respective communities and customers.

This year’s event was hosted by Lynne Fruth, president of Fruth Pharmacy, and it was held virtually last month due to the pandemic. Nevertheless, the meeting was a productive one, according to Fruth.

Along with Fruth Pharmacy, Lewis Drug, Kinney Drug, Sav-Mor Pharmacies, Drug Emporium, Bartell Drugs, and Hometown Pharmacy were some of the other member chains that took part in this year’s virtual event.

Most years, the meetings focus on best practices and innovation and feature extensive Q&A sessions on topics determined by the group prior to the event. While this year’s meeting touched on these issues, the pandemic was a top priority.

COVID-19 operational issues and opportunities, testing, vaccines, practices, and policies and processes for the pandemic, were the main agenda topics. Other issues included flu shot innovations, delivery and curbside pickup, driving prescription volume, front-end opportunities, and personnel and staff concerns.

One of the benefits to the SDSA being a smaller group, according to Fruth, is that it allows for better communication among colleagues. “We’re able to share and problem-solve and develop those relationships with one with another,” says Fruth. “And those kinds of relationships are very critical, because I say all the time as regional chains that we have to all hang together or surely we’ll all hang separately.”

For example, Fruth notes how her pharmacists were able to share with other regional chains a data “smartsheet” Fruth developed to fight the opioid crisis, which is a focal point for Fruth Pharmacy. “So then a lot of people started using that,” Fruth says. “Those are the types of things that really come out of this collaboration.”

And that spirit of cooperation has carried over to COVID, Fruth adds, noting that during the virtual meeting last month the various participants shared ideas on testing, for instance, and what was working and, as importantly, what was not. “It’s important that one of us will try something and say ‘Hey, I tried this and it was a total bust,’ and then others can avoid making that same mistake,” Fruth says. “So there was a lot of discussion around what people were doing with COVID testing and how they were making it work and how they were making it beneficial to the community and also profitable.”

Innovation concerning flu shots, which all agree are especially important this year, was also shared, such as how Fruth Pharmacy is utilizing drive-thru and car-side immunizations to encourage those who might be anxious about going inside a store or clinic still to get their shots.

Some participants also shared policies and practices they had implemented on testing employees and keeping their workplaces safe, which, Fruth says, was very helpful, because others were able to incorporate those ideas for their own stores and staffs.

But perhaps most important was the issue of how regional chains can ensure they receive adequate amounts of the COVID vaccine once the Food and Drug Administration has approved one and the U.S. Military through Operation Warp Speed begins to distribute it.


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