Chain is known as a pharmacy and health care innovator.
PLYMOUTH, Minn. — Thrifty White Pharmacy can trace its history back to 1884, when H.E. White founded White Drug in what was then the Dakota Territory. White Drug continued to thrive and grow, and by 1985 when it was acquired by Thrifty Drug — founded in 1957 in Brainerd, Minn. — White Drug had grown to 38 stores.
Today, Thrifty White’s base remains the rural Midwest, with stores in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Montana and Wisconsin. The company’s primary focus is its pharmacy business, along with associated drug store operations. Pharmacy, health aids, cosmetics, photo, giftware and greeting cards are the core departments and foundation of the business.
Throughout its history, Thrifty White has been known as an innovator in pharmacy and health care, and it is for this reason the retailer has been chosen by Chain Drug Review as Regional Drug Chain of the Year.
At heart, Thrifty White is a patient-focused, technology-enabled, health care services company focused on utilizing patient engagement to improve outcomes and reduce the total cost of care, according to chief operations officer Tim Weippert, who has been with Thrifty White for 43 years and credits the company’s 1,800 employees for its success.
“By leveraging the unique capabilities of our pharmacists and pharmacy teams, combined with focused technology and clinical care plans, Thrifty White Pharmacy creates better patient experiences and improved patient outcomes,” Weippert says.
As a regional chain pharmacy, Thrifty White has a total of 99 locations across the six states it serves, including 92 retail stores, two central-fill facilities and five long-term-care (LTC) locations — and it works with another 80 affiliate pharmacies across the U.S.
Thrifty White’s suite of pharmacy offerings includes proprietary dispensing, clinical and operations technology. Licensed in all 50 states, Thrifty White also offers URAC (Utilization Review Accreditation Commission) and ACHC (Accreditation Commission for Health Care) accredited specialty pharmacy.
“We believe our greatest asset is our loyal, hard-working employees who cooperate in the spirit of teamwork to help deliver growth and success to the company,” says Weippert. “Our commitment to our communities starts with our local store employees. They work to build strong patient relationships daily at store level, but also are very actively engaged within their communities, helping at varying levels of engagement and service. Our goal is to be the best pharmacy in each town where we operate.”
What it boils down to for Thrifty White, Weippert says, is “the patient and healthy outcomes,” which is one of the reasons the chain has made a further commitment to its communities through significant investments in its brick-and-mortar locations. The objective here, according to Weippert, is to convert to the retailer’s Healthy Outcomes format to provide Thrifty White pharmacy teams with enhanced spaces to engage in patient care.
“The design goal was to be patient-centric, with a focus on driving outcomes through more direct accessibility to the pharmacy team through additional clinical suites,” he says, noting that adding Ask Your Pharmacist stations and enhanced pickup and drop-off areas within the store model are all intended to drive additional clinical service offerings for patients.
About a decade ago, Thrifty White had arrived at a crossroads in pharmacy, Weippert says, and the company’s pharmacy teams were told a decision had to be made: Either the path of fast and cheap prescriptions — “pills in a bottle approach” — or a path focused on building out the chain’s ability to impact patient outcomes and total cost of care.
“We saw and felt a shift to value-based care was inevitable,” Weippert says, “and if we were going to be relevant in that environment we would need to create a practice model where our pharmacists were enabled to engage patients to improve their outcomes and reduce total costs of care. We obviously picked the outcomes pathway, and that has been our focus ever since.”
At the same time, Thrifty White began further leveraging its Rx MedSync appointment-based model to become the pillar in the foundation of the chain’s patient engagement and clinical service delivery model, such as enhancing monthly visits, using multiple touchpoints with patients to foster better pharmacy/patient relationships that enable the pharmacist to have prioritized, targeted goals and interventions during appointments with their patients.
Thrifty White also continued to expand the use of its central-fill operations to move filling functions of medications out of stores, which has freed up pharmacists so they have more face time with patients.
During this transition period, the company’s pharmacists received motivational interviewing training to help them rethink how they engage their patients to make them more effective in helping their patients change behavior. The goal for this change in behavior, according to Weippert, was to equip pharmacists with the information necessary to address the concerns of patients in order to help those patients make better decisions for their own health.
But this patient-focused health care was just the beginning, Weippert points out, as establishing and growing partnerships and relationships with providers, payors, Pharma and health systems were all important to bring further opportunity.
“Thrifty White Pharmacy, through its ability to be nimble and flexible and with its cornerstones of Rx MedSync and central fill, has worked to establish customized approaches to meet Thrifty White’s and the partners needs to collectively improve care, reduce the costs and better the health of the patients to be served,” says Weippert. “Through collaborations with our partners, specific designs are established to bring high levels of delivery and coordination of care, such as optimization of preventative services, gaps in care identification, high-risk assessments, improving specific disease states and population management, to name a few.”
What this all means, Weippert adds, is the chain’s ability to deliver results that are able to be captured through reporting and data capabilities — and these results “continue to lead to significant impacts on patient outcomes and total costs of care.”
And these efforts have paid off. In the last few years, through these relationships and collaborations, the volume of clinical initiatives and services for patients continues to increase.
Essential to Thrifty White’s success, Weippert says, is “listening to the needs of our pharmacists and teams” — and in response to hearing their needs the company recently completed a major upgrade to its central-fill automation, has continued to increase Rx MedSync enrollment by moving more prescriptions to central fill and invested in a workload-balancing platform.
Additionally, as a result of managing the workload balancing and being able to identify patients in need of engaging with pharmacists, as well as having a means of documenting and billing, Thrifty White developed its own proprietary pharmacy dispensing workflow application that has an embedded clinical platform. The application, explains Weippert, enables workload balancing of dispensing activities across multiple pharmacies so that the pharmacist can step away from the dispensing functions that remain in the store and complete clinical interventions.
The platform then clearly identifies which patients need a specific encounter with a pharmacist, so that the entire pharmacy team has visibility throughout work flow, which helps ensure the opportunity to work with a patient in need is not missed.
Finally, the platform allows the pharmacists to complete the encounter within the same application that was used for prescription fulfillment and streamlining the documentation process. Just recently, Thrifty White rolled out one of its larger enhancements, medical billing capabilities, through an integration with one of its industry partners.
And despite the ongoing COVID pandemic, Thrifty White continues, Weippert emphasizes, to advance its patient-engaged health care services and relationships.
Since the outbreak of the virus in the U.S., more than 15,000 additional patients have enrolled in Thrifty White’s Rx MedSync, putting the total enrollment in the program at nearly 100,000 patients. The company also took the initiative of relaunching the Personalized-Medication Adherence and Persistence Program (P-MAPP), which has made it possible to bring pharmacists out from behind the counter in order for them to engage with patients. For example, this has allowed more pharmacists to help patients with type 2 diabetes improve their medication adherence.
Thrifty White has also partnered with RxE2’s clinical trial platform and its new E2 Dispensing service, which moves packaging and labeling of investigational drugs from a product-centric model to a patient-centric model and in the process leverages the clinical expertise of local pharmacists to deliver simple, high-quality and cost-effective services for clinical trials based on one-on-one patient care relationships.
Thrifty White is also part of Operation Warp Speed, and it is working with the CDC and its GPO (group purchasing organization) partner in the industry along with state stakeholders to ensure the company and its pharmacy teams are at the ready. As initial vaccine distribution has started, Thrifty White will be involved in all phases of patient engagement, starting at the end of December with the LTC facilities that is serves.
“Our company and our employees are all committed to exceed the expectations of our patients, delivering outcomes through our clinical expertise and accessibility of our pharmacists and pharmacy teams,” says Weippert, “through our newly formatted and patient-focused Healthy Outcomes store formats, through our technology advanced proprietary pharmacy and clinical platforms, and through our trusted partnerships with providers, payors, and Pharma and industry partners all to enhance patient engagement, patient outcomes and reduce overall total cost of care.”