A Celebration of the Independent Pharmacy


Independent pharmacies are a beacon of healthcare for their communities and often offer services that bigger retailers don’t provide. Due to today’s vast challenges however, many of these independents are struggling to survive. Fortunately, the scope of practice for pharmacists is expanding, enabling new revenue streams that can help enhance the viability of an independent pharmacy’s business. Change Healthcare is here to support you, the independent pharmacy, so you can focus on your business and your patients. 

By: Kristol Chism, Director of Industry Relations at Change Healthcare

Independent pharmacies take pride in being different from big pharmacy chains. They are unique entities that cater to the needs of their communities. They offer services not always found in larger chains, like classes for weight loss, smoking cessation, or diabetes. Independent pharmacists provide everything from foot and wound care to CLIA waived testing to medical equipment sales to health screenings, immunization administration, home delivery... The sky is the limit.

Beacons of health

Independent pharmacies are often a beacon of healthcare for their communities, particularly in areas where other healthcare providers are absent. According to the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) 90% of Americans live within five miles of a retail pharmacy, however that figure is heavily influenced by consumers in urban areas, who live within 1.83 miles on average. Presently there are over 23,000 independently owned pharmacies nationwide, or about one-third of the total pharmacies in the U.S.

Unfortunately, that number is shrinking. Although there are more than 60,000 pharmacies in the U.S., they are unevenly dispersed. In over 40% of U.S. counties, most citizens do not have adequate pharmacy access. Further, an October 2019 study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Internal Medicine, reported that one in eight pharmacies shut down between 2009 and 2015. Another analysis found that over 41 million Americans live in a pharmacy desert.

These closures are even more pronounced in rural areas. According to the University of Iowa’s Rural Policy Research Institute, from 2003 to 2018, 1,231 of the nations’ 7,624 independent rural pharmacies closed, leaving 630 communities with no independent or chain reatil drugstore. Shrinking reimbursements from payers, competitive pressures from retail chains, skyrocketing DIR fees, staffing shortages, and supply chain disruptions have all taken their toll on the viability of the independent pharmacy’s business. As independent pharmacies are closing their doors, particularly in rural areas, the result is an undue burden on patients, who are experiencing limited access to needed healthcare services and, consequently, a decreased chance for positive health outcomes. Despite the challenges, there are still opportunities for independent pharmacists to thrive.

Pharmacists as providers

COVID-19 dramatically changed the way healthcare is provided and pharmacy is at the center of those changes. The value of the community pharmacist is further emphasized by new legislation and regulations. Beyond immunization enhancements, states have begun to give pharmacists additional prescribing authorities and test and treat abilities, as well as provider status which allows pharmacists to bill state Medicaid for services provided. As the rules and regulations around pharmacy change, opportunities for independent pharmacies to expand their services increase. To highlight one example of expanded services, if pharmacists are given provider status, diabetes education sessions could be formalized and monetized, which would help increase the viability of the local corner drug store.

Suite of solutions

Change Healthcare caters to independent pharmacies with a suite of solutions can help you circumvent the pitfalls and challenges of running an independent pharmacy, so you can focus on your business and your patients.

We provide solutions such as industry leading pharmacy software through Enterprise Pharmacy System (EPS), intelligent inventory management through Turn Rx, and a suite of revenue cycle management solutions though Absolute AR. The suite of solutions offered by Change Healthcare help to navigate the pitfalls and challenges of running an independent pharmacy to allow the pharmacist to place focus where it should be: on their patient.

I can get many of these pharmacy solutions from other companies, but I stay with Change Healthcare for the personal service I receive from their account managers.”

-Dr. Valerie Powell, Pharmacy Director for Lone Star Family Health Center

In communities across America, independent pharmacies are the lifeblood of healthcare. Although they face many obstacles to the success of their business, with the right tools, knowledge, and support, independent pharmacies can create a successful future. If you’d like to learn more about how our solutions can help your independent pharmacy succeed, please contact us through our pharmacy solutions page.

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