Merits of Retail Pharmacy First Came to Life in Business School Assignment

Dr. Ruth Cassidy laid out her arguments for opening a retail pharmacy at St. Barnabas Hospital by writing a 10-page paper for a class in her MBA program.

In the paper, the senior vice president of clinical support services and chief pharmacy officer at SBH Health System delved into the financial and community benefits of such a project. Including net cash flow and depreciation charts, she explained how such a pharmacy would not only pay for itself in less than a year, but would generate significant revenue for the hospital during this time and into the future.

Additionally, Dr. Cassidy noted that by locating a pharmacy within the walls of the hospital, SBH would increase the number of patients who receive their medications and their medication education prior to discharge. This would impact medication adherence, which has been proven to be a key component in reducing hospital readmission rates. Patients who do not adhere to taking their medication have been shown to have poor clinical outcomes, increased cost of care and adverse consequences for workforce productivity and overall health. One study revealed that low and intermediate adherence had hospital readmission rates of 20 percent compared to a readmission rate of 9.3 percent for patients with high adherence.

Not only did she get an “A” on the paper, but it eventually helped convince executive leadership at SBH of the viability of such a project. The hospital soon made plans to convert a room in its lobby, previously used as a gift shop, into a 600-foot retail pharmacy. Although the advent of COVID-19 derailed construction of the project for about a year, the St. Barnabas Hospital Outpatient Pharmacy became a reality in January. By April, the pharmacy was exceeding financial projections. Dr. Cassidy knows something about retail pharmacies. She owned three successful pharmacies in Queens and Long Island for a decade in the early part of her career as a pharmacist, later selling them and returning to school to get her doctorate in pharmacy.

The new retail pharmacy provides onsite, easy access of low cost prescriptions, as well as over-the-counter medications and such durable medical appliances as breast pumps. The pharmacy team also offers personal medication counseling and home delivery.

The plan is to expand the hospital’s current Meds-to-Beds program, says Dr. Cassidy, with the goal of assuring that “every patient, whether an inpatient, patient in the emergency room or an outpatient at our clinics, leaves with their prescribed medications in their hand without any reason for having to come back to pick up their medication. This has been proven as a reason for not taking medication.”

Employees can also have their prescriptions filled while they are working and have them ready for pick up when they leave work to go home.

The pharmacy is presently exploring the possibility of offering food prescriptions, working collaboratively with area food banks to insure that, in a community marked by food insecurity, patients have access to healthy foods. Additionally, SBH plans to open a storefront specialty pharmacy at its ambulatory clinic across the street on Third Avenue next fall.