Join our special guest, Jonathan Marquess, as we discuss his experience testing for coronavirus at two of his pharmacy locations. We’ll dig into the logistics of hosting a testing clinic and what it means for your staff and for your business. Dr. Marquess also provides key insights into how COVID-19 is shaping the future of pharmacy and the rest of 2020.
About Jonathan Marquess
Jonathan Marquess and his pharmacist wife are owners of multiple independent pharmacies in Georgia. Jonathan specializes in diabetes care and earned his Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Mercer University.
Throughout his career, Dr. Marquess has been actively involved in local, state, and national professional organizations. He is a Past President of the Georgia Pharmacy Association (GPhA). Currently, he serves on the APhA Board of Trustees.
In 2008, Marquess was awarded the Innovative Pharmacist of the Year from GPhA. In 2012, Marquess was named the Independent Pharmacist of the Year from the Georgia Academy of Independent Pharmacists.
Scott Vondeylen: (00:02)
Helping pharmacists grow themselves, their business and driving outcomes. This is PharmacyNow.
Scott Vondeylen: (00:22)
All right. We are excited to be here for episode six of the PharmacyNow podcast. Have a special guest today, but as always, when we start these episodes off, wanna give a special shout out and thanks to the first responders, the men and women, not just in law enforcement, but of course in healthcare who are doing their very, very best every single day to help combat COVID-19 and keeping us all very healthy and happy. And just a warm, warm thank you from us here at the PharmacyNow podcast for all of their efforts. So excited about episode number six, a little bit of a continuation on the same topic of COVID we’ve had a few episodes that have covered this. Kind of breaking it down into various segments. We are joined by a very special guest today, a long time friend of the PharmacyNow podcast staff, and very excited to have him on, Dr. Jonathan Marquess. Dr. Marquess, how are you?
Jonathan Marquess: (01:27)
Great, Scott, thank you for having me today. Hope you’re well.
COVID-19 Testing for McKesson
Scott Vondeylen: (01:30)
Perfect. Let’s dive into it. COVID-19, we’ve had several different episodes on this and really wanted to start off that you were chosen by McKesson, who is your wholesaler, and we can kind of explain that process if that makes sense, but you were chosen, a few of your stores were chosen, to provide COVID-19 testing to patients there in those areas where those two pharmacies were. So I’m going to just stop right there. Tell me how this all started.
Jonathan Marquess: (02:09)
Well, Scott, like you, you’re such a good interviewer and you ask such good questions. I guess I have to give it a little bit of context, because I think a lot of people are going to be asked that question very soon. And, you know, back in January and February, it seems like gosh, two years ago, but back in January and February, my pharmacies were doing quite well. Scott, we were focused on our goals. We were trying to do everything we could, you know, outside of PBM control. And I even thought about where I was going to do this interview. And a lot of times I’d do these type of interviews right in my pharmacy, because I think that’s important. But today I’m actually in my business office upstairs because I think this is really a business discussion today because I believe we need to hit the reset button, Scott and get back to focusing on our bottom line and our patients’ health. And that’s what I think leads to your question. McKesson did ask me Health Mart, actually Health Mart asked me to do some COVID testing and, you know, we had to scratch our head a little bit and do a little research, but even from five seconds into the question, we said, yes, we didn’t tell them yes right up front. But I said, yes, this is a great opportunity for independent pharmacy. I think they had picked a, you know, a dozen or more throughout the country to do this, but we did our research. We did our homework and we ultimately came down to, Scott, this was the right thing for our pharmacy. This was the right thing for our community, more importantly. And even for me personally.
Scott Vondeylen: (03:46)
Yeah. Well, and I know you and I have talked about the project a couple of different times and, you know I completely understand why your stores were picked. You have such a huge presence down there with all your locations in the Atlanta area. So kind of, if you could dive into a little bit to the results that you generated with these two locations and what was the kind of the initial goal and where did you all end up just as it relates to this particular project with the COVID-19 testing?
Jonathan Marquess: (04:15)
You’re right. Pam is a pharmacist and Pam and they chose two locations and we selected Pam ran our East Marietta COVID testing. That was our first drug store that I purchased back in 1993, very vibrant community, very big community, over half million people live in just the city of Marietta, very affluent area, but obviously in a city that size you have all takers. The pharmacy I was at, believe it or not, was on a very busy intersection across from the hospital but very low end, economically of many of our patients. So it was interesting. We said, how will this go over? Now, the tests were free. But, but they selected two sites which were drastically different. And I don’t know if they did that on purpose, which I imagine they did, or if they just threw it out of a hat. I know in Atlanta, certainly that was a smart move. And we certainly tried to hit it out of the park. We had a competition, as you can imagine, I’m very competitive, but I have to let you know, Pam won. We did about 900 tests, but yeah, it was exciting and fun. And I know you’ll have more questions.
Scott Vondeylen: (05:32)
Yeah. So the total number, of just an estimate, on the total number of tests that were completed at two sites?
Jonathan Marquess: (05:39)
Roughly about 900.
Scott Vondeylen: (05:41)
Oh, wow. Okay.
Jonathan Marquess: (05:42)
Yeah. 900 tests. We did it over a span of three weeks. And this is probably what some of the audience today is wanting to know. You know, we had certain times there’s positives of that and negatives. We did it roughly 10 to 2. Now we got out there probably 8:30 or so setting up, getting ready, and then sort of cut it off at 2. But I say that there were three or four days where we had it wrapped around the parking lot with cars. My parking lot wasn’t as big so there brought some challenges on with that. Pam had a huge parking lot, which made it nice and more convenient for that aspect.
Preparing for Testing
Scott Vondeylen: (06:24)
So what was the checklist like in preparation to be able to, was it in my mind and you know, I’m not a pharmacist, as I always tell the listeners and I don’t own a pharmacy, so was that checklist pretty expanded in terms of the size that you had to go through in order to set yourself up there in the front or outside of the pharmacy to provide these testings? Like what did that look like? I’ve talked to Steve Hoffart a couple months ago and he just ran down a list that he goes through every single day, just to open the pharmacy during this time period. And it was extensive let alone, he was not providing testing. So to have testing going on outside of the pharmacy there in the parking lot, was that extensive or was it not as, not as extensive as I might think?
Jonathan Marquess: (07:13)
That’s an interesting question, Scott. You know, my dad taught me many, many years ago. It wasn’t a quote from him, but I still remember this quote in just about everything I do. If you fail to plan, you better plan to fail. And I have to give Health Mart a lot of credit on this because obviously we knew how to open up the pharmacy. We know how to get our staff ready. You know, we know how to put on the PPE, but I do have to give McKesson credit of good signage, good printouts. I’m going to tell you all the positives now, and I’m sure you’ll maybe ask some challenges later. You know, it was pretty extensive Scott, but it wasn’t as extensive as you think it’s basically, get set up. One of the challenges are, you know, even though this was in May, it got up to 90 degrees one day. It was actually the second day we did testing. The first day went off beautifully, without a hitch, we had five or six stations. I had my technicians, I had a couple of students, even a couple of pharmacists, because we wanted to be ready. That was the main thing is we didn’t want to get overwhelmed because we had seen things on TV. You never knew was one person gonna show up or a thousand. I think the first day we did about 25, but one thing I found up on that second day, it came 90 degrees. We set up one of our red sort of tents. And it’s amazing how our red tent in a middle of a parking lot that garnishes some excitement, that garnishes some attention. So our second day was even bigger, but boy, was it hot! So some of the things that we didn’t necessarily plan, you know, about how to get your staff ready, you know, about the PPE, you know, the forms you got to fill out, you teach the patient how to do the nasal swab. We didn’t think about the staff’s going to get really thirsty and not to have a cooler full of water out there. And who’s going to take breaks when and how are we going to do all that? So there was a lot of things we knew Scott, but there’s a lot of things we learned as well.
Scott Vondeylen: (09:18)
Sounds like it, Jonathan, and I can’t even imagine, you know, and because you’ve got these pharmacies, there you’d have two that are selected, you know, it’s already challenging enough to own any business, right. Whether it’s a pharmacy or any sort of retail operation that you got to open it up every day and get the staff ready and, you know, get the systems up and running. And, in pharmacies, there’s a whole checklist of things to go through. And then you put yourself in a global pandemic. And what does that look like when you’re closing the front end of the store? And now all of a sudden you’re out in the front providing testing supplies to patients that drives up. So congratulations, first of all, to you and your staff are doing an incredible job for two locations. It sounds like as you mentioned Pam won in terms of the number of tests, not surprising. So congratulations, and I’m glad to hear that everyone’s the staff everyone’s healthy and happy and everyone’s doing well.
Jonathan Marquess: (10:18)
Yes. You know, it’s an interesting part that was some of the fear going in, but again, I have to give a little kudos to Health Mart. This was really what I call a, a drive up testing. You know, obviously we were garbed up gloves mask, even shields, face shields. Sometimes, basically there was no patient contact. They would roll their window down about three inches. We would talk to the patient through that three inches, hand them the testing material. They actually did the swab themselves. I’ve seen various different types of tests in the news. But that was the great thing about it. And the reason that I sort of gave the final checkoff, Scott, to work with this company is that there really wasn’t any hand-to-hand contact. There wasn’t any physical contact. We definitely had social distancing. They were in their car. We were standing outside of the car. The other major reason I signed on is we did not know their results. And I’m really glad looking back. I’m glad I made that decision. This was handled by a lab corporation in California, and they did all the tests. They did all the lab work and they did all the reporting to the patient. The reporting did not come back to the pharmacy.
COVID-19 Testing Results
Scott Vondeylen: (11:32)
Okay. So that was going to be my next question was, do you know the results from the 900 tests and you do not, and you were, Jonathan, saying that that’s actually a good thing.
Jonathan Marquess: (11:42)
Yeah, I do. Scott, I sure do. And you know, it’s interesting how most of the people that showed up during this three week period in May was… I work at a local business, many times, our restaurant, many times a younger, probably 20 to 40 years of age. And they would say things like, man, I’m so glad you all are here. I need this COVID test to come back to work. I need a negative test to get back to work. So, in my opinion, we screened a lot of people that were negative, but the reason I gave that final checkoff in my ability was that we didn’t know if they were positive or negative after the three day result period.
The Future of Pharmacy
Scott Vondeylen: (12:29)
Well, so interesting. So now looking forward, Jonathan, you have these three weeks, it sounds like it was very successful based on the numbers. And you guys put a ton of effort into that and providing such a needed, you know, outlet, I think for patients to be able to go to get tested, you know, with the pressure on the overall healthcare system of where do I go to get tested? Do I want to go to the ER, do I go to my physician? So to have a pharmacy, to have pharmacies, given the ability and the authority to provide this testing is fantastic. And I think, is hopefully gonna help push things forward for pharmacy as a whole, as it relates to other clinical initiatives. But that’s kinda my transition Jonathan, into that, into the next question. What do you think this does, these types of projects getting involved in clinical testing like COVID-19? Obviously most pharmacies, 80 plus percent of pharmacies, according to NCPA are already offering immunizations, you know, across the board. What does this do in your mind for kind of the future of pharmacy and pushing things forward at a little faster rate?
Jonathan Marquess: (13:39)
Well, Scott, a couple of things come to mind and I appreciate the question. I definitely think pharmacists are under-utilized. They’re highly trained. You know, most people listening to this presentation have got a pharmacy degree. Many people are doctors of pharmacy. So the entire US population, according to an article, the entire US population walk through a pharmacy every week. So I know pharmacists are very easily accessible. They’re highly trained and very knowledgeable. So I see this as a very exciting sort of push out to the board. Sometimes you have to be pushed a little bit. I don’t, I know I support pharmacists being providers, and I work very hard on that at the local legislature and within CPA at the national Congress. Even though I don’t think that means we can’t do this or that without being a provider, I just think we need to be providers because there’s a lot of things that can open up to help patients with their health. Now it’s interesting. These people, I did testing for Scott, many of them pulled up and they probably don’t have too many chronic disease states, but even though we’ve spent hundreds of dollars in local marketing, I got hand down and talk to me about signage and we put up new signage, quite a few people pulled up to get the testing. And I would introduce myself as owner and pharmacist of Physicians Pharmacy and they’d say, wow, this is great. I didn’t know a pharmacy was right here. They know about the Chick-fil-A right next door to me, cause it’s one of the busiest Chick-fil-A in the County, but they didn’t know about me. So again, that was the learning. One of the learning things for me is that we still have to do marketing. We still have to build our brand, whether it’s online or sorta what I say, the blocking and tackling of actually going out and marketing our services. But the positive thing is a lot of people would say, Oh yeah, I’m very familiar with pharmacists. I get my flu shot from my pharmacist. I get my blood pressure taken with my pharmacist. I get my prescriptions filled for my pharmacist. And what we tried to engage in a… Certainly I did is the marketing aspect of testing is, you know, do you know your pharmacist’s name? Do you have a relationship with a pharmacist? And unfortunately many people had said, no, they didn’t have a relationship with the pharmacist. They went into a pharmacy, but didn’t have an individual relationship. So I think there’s exciting times ahead for independent pharmacists there.
Marketing Through COVID Tests
Scott Vondeylen: (16:11)
Jonathan, I appreciate that. You know, answer to that question, very informative. So you just kinda, a bell went off in my head when you talk about marketing opportunities. And so I’d love to know of the 900 tests that you provided. Obviously you were able to capture some of that patient data. You’re not getting the results back, which we went through and your thought process behind that. But you’re capturing that patient information initially to provide that test. Do you know what percentage of those 900 were previous patients to your pharmacies versus versus not?
Jonathan Marquess: (16:45)
Don’t know the exact percentage Scott, I would say it was roughly about 15% because this is the part that I have to give my staff kudos for. You know, they didn’t quite understand what this all meant and they actually were scared. I’ll be honest with you the first few days, because you know, they thought we might even do some testing inside the pharmacy, but this was actually a about 30, 40 yards in the back of the pharmacy in the back parking lot. But what I was more excited about is the 15% of patients that were already ours was a week later, two weeks later, even last week, I had a patient said, I met you in the screening out back, here’s three prescriptions. Or I had a patient come in and say, you mentioned some vitamins that I ought to take or some zinc out there in the parking lot. I’m here to get those. So it was a low percentage, Scott. When local employers found out we were doing it, a lot of local employers sent their staff over, which I didn’t mind at all. They weren’t customers of ours, but I looked at it as could we build them as new customers. And what I think is exciting too, for the independent pharmacists listening in is that they want us to come back in the fall and provide immunizations.
Scott Vondeylen: (18:00)
Yeah, absolutely. So Jonathan, as the true entrepreneur that you are. You’re looking at this also as an opportunity to gain new patients. And that’s kind of course where I was leading with that question is to say, is there an opportunity to pick up, cause you’re providing that personalized service and experience for the patient they’re pulling up. They don’t know your pharmacy, as you mentioned, they didn’t realize there was a pharmacy, you know, right next to the Chik-fil-A. They get to meet you as the owner and operator and how kind and caring and compassionate you are to be out there in 90 degree heat providing these tests to patients. And so a huge opportunity to, you know, to transition or to roll out of those folks into a hopefully longterm patients. So antibody test, hot topic, we’ve heard several varying opinions across the board. These antibody tests that are out there, Jonathan, some of them are reliable. Some of them are not. And not that I know, none of us are really the expert at this point and the different, you know, the number of companies out there that are distributing these antibody tests, some of them require a full blood draw and et cetera. But as we look forward with COVID-19 is we’re waiting for the immunization, which we’ll talk about that next. What are, what are just your current thoughts on the antibody test? Is it something that you, as an owner and operator you know, 10 plus pharmacies, is it something that you’re interested in providing, are you going to provide that? Is that truly an opportunity for the other 22,000 independent pharmacies in the marketplace today to provide that additional care for patients and service, and also it’s a revenue driver potentially just want to dive into that for a minute. Jonathan, give me your thoughts.
Jonathan Marquess: (19:49)
Yeah, I appreciate it Scott. I think the easy answer is yes. And, you know, always the devil’s in the details. We are definitely going to offer antibody testing. And I know we’re about to talk about immunizations, but in my opinion, folks, this fall could be the biggest and brightest immunization season you’ve ever had. Think about it. You could be providing antibody tests, you could be providing COVID tests. You could be providing flu shots. You could be giving a COVID immunization pneumonia, shingles, the list goes on and on and on, but I’ve already been approached. And again, back to the COVID testing, I’ve already been approached by a local school that told me they are going to require antibody testing of their teachers. And would I be able to do that? And we don’t have time to get into all the laws, but in Georgia, from what I’ve read. And I’ve had a couple of students do research for me, for us to provide a test, there has to be approval. And to date, we haven’t found one of those tests. We would like it to be a finger stick, and we would like it to be a CLIA waived test, which again, leads to what can your members and audience and customers do. I personally believe it’s a no brainer about half of my pharmacies have a CLIA waiver we’re going to apply for the other half, because I think there’s more than just antibody testing that in the future brings and develops for us with having a CLIA waiver. But yes, Scott, we are definitely going to be offering antibody tests at the pharmacy. We’re just waiting to one that is good for us and ready for prime time that we can feel comfortable for and knowledgeable about when it’s ready.
Obtaining a CLIA Waiver
Scott Vondeylen: (21:32)
Love it, Jonathan. Thank you again for that. For the lay person out there, the CLIA waiver, can you kind of just give us the overview of what that is and is that something that’s challenging for a pharmacy to obtain?
Scott Vondeylen: (21:48)
Thank you, Scott. It’s not challenging, but it’s the clinical laboratory improvement act. That’s where the CLIA comes from. You would need to work with your state organization of CLIA. It costs about $100 to $200 a year, or I think it’s every two years now. So there’s a little bit of expense involved, but that is for us to be, in a sense, quote unquote, here, I got the air quotes going on for us, to become a clinical laboratory, which I personally think we’re a great place to be a clinical laboratory. The tests, Scott, are broken down to waive test, moderate complexity, high complexity. In my opinion, I really want to focus on CLIA waived test right now. There are some that would argue, and I wouldn’t necessarily disagree that we could probably do some more intense testing, if you wanted to and if you had some training, but right now my focus, Scott, is on our CLIA waived test, like an antibody test for COVID.
Preparing for Immunization Season
Scott Vondeylen: (22:47)
Great. Thank you for that. Um, because I needed some clarity on that as well. I’ll blame it on the listeners. I also needed some clarity there, so yes. Thank you, John. So, immunizations, you just mentioned it a couple of minutes ago, a few moments ago that it has the potential to be the largest in your words, I think brightest immunization season ever for pharmacy, you’ve got the COVID immunization out there on the horizon. Obviously you mentioned, right? Your regular flu season, the antibody test is there. He mentioned earlier, and I loved it. Your father told you years ago, you have to have a plan in place or your as well plan to fail. So what are you doing specifically if we could bullet point it or, you know, give us much in-depth explanation as you want. What are you doing, Jonathan, for your pharmacies? Some of the things you just mentioned to really truly prepare to make sure that you’re going to be able to execute at a high level and take advantage of as much of that opportunity that presents itself within those individual patient populations at your locations for that opportunity, Jonathan?
Jonathan Marquess: (23:59)
Well, Scott, I tell you it is true. I think you have to plan. Matter of fact, two days from now as we record, this is July 1 and believe it or not, July 1 is when we start talking about it to our pharmacy staff, into our external group. One of the things we’re already doing, we’ve already ordered our vaccine. And, obviously we haven’t ordered a COVID vaccine, but a lot of our flu we have ordered. You don’t usually have to order pneumonia or shingles or meningococcal earlier, but we’ve already placed our order for flu. And usually each year I challenge our staff. I challenged them to say, you know, if you did a hundred go up 10%, 10 to 15%, that’s what I challenge each of our pharmacists to do. So we’ve already ordered our vaccines. We’re going to start on Wednesday, printing up our documentation, because if you do quite a bit of this, even a little bit of this, you have to have good documentation. And I learned many years ago, you know, we have clipboards, we have signage, we have forms that our patients fill out. We have the vaccine information statement. And if you wait until October 1 to start doing this, it can be quite daunting on you. It can be quite daunting on your staff, but I’ll tell you this, Scott, if you look at just the field of immunizations, I mean, you can talk about almost anything in pharmacy and what gets me excited, you know, get involved in MTM, get involved in CBD, boost your deliveries, do more DME compounding. But to me, if we could put one thing on showing the clinical aspect of pharmacist, it’s immunizations. I love it. Matter of fact, two weeks ago, I did a training and taught some 30 new pharmacist of more about the immunology side of it, but also how to build your business and how to actively give the shots. So I’m excited about that Scott.
Flu Season 2020
Scott Vondeylen: (25:53)
Awesome, Jonathan. I love it. A huge opportunity on the horizon, as you mentioned, especially during the time and you know, you’re no stranger to hearing all of this as you work with the legislator. You know, as it in regards to DIR fees and the squeezing of margins on the dispensing side of the business, and that immunizations is a, you know, this has been something that pharmacy is now been involved in for quite some time. And probably, you know, according to some of the data that we have, don’t necessarily always take advantage of that opportunity that resides within their patient population. Cause it’s not something that they still, a lot of pharmacies haven’t incorporated under their workflow to, you know, during that time to first of all, be prepared for it as you are. And as you’re talking about a game plan, but then also incorporate it into their talk tracks to say, Hey, have you had a flu shot this year and really maximizing and capitalizing on opportunity. So there’s never been a better time than now. If you’re a pharmacy owner and operator, you’re listening to this podcast to say, I’ve got to get myself prepared and ready for this year. And really, as you just mentioned, July 1, here in just a few days, got to get started now because it will be very daunting if I try to. It’ll be organized chaos at best if I wait until October 1. So I hear you loud and clear there. Have a question here in front of me, we discussed this a little bit and I know it’s, you know, I have, as you know, and knowing you for seven years have so much respect for you, Dr. Marquess and your experience in running so many successful different pharmacies, again, you’re owner and operator with your wife, Pam have 10 different pharmacies. But sometimes I think I may look at you as the Oracle of independent pharmacy. And I know that you may not be able to predict exactly what’s going to happen. But as it relates to the flu shot and that opportunity, Jonathan, as we approach that season, and again, you’re already gearing up for it. Do you anticipate a dip potentially in flu shots because of the anticipation of the COVID-19 immunization and how that obviously, with the news and the media is at the forefront of everything. It’s, you know, everyone, that’s the number one concern. We’re all wearing masks. When we go to the grocery store, this has been going on lockdown for four months going, what are your thoughts around that, Jonathan? Is it, do you think it’s gonna have an impact on the dispensing of flu shots this year?
Jonathan Marquess: (28:25)
Well, Scott, you know, I’m a storyteller and I love stories. I love reading and I love watching great films and I love hanging out with you most important as well. I take a look at Scott. I don’t know if you remember Scott, where you were about this time, a little bit back, but back in 2017, February of 2017, there was a little Superbowl going on and the Atlanta Falcons were playing the Patriots. And I don’t know if you remember this cause I know you’re a huge fan, but I do. I do remember the Falcons were up, the Falcons were up. We were partying in the streets, Scott and my house high-fiving. It was 28 to three. The Falcons were up and I’ll fast forward this, we lost the game. We lost the game. We did not score any more points in the second half. Well folks, It’s July 1. It’s the second half of 2020. Let’s not do what the Falcons did in 2017. Let’s get focused. Now let’s start working on a plan for the fall. But no Scott, to answer your question, I don’t think there will be a dip because one of the most important things we’ll have to do is distinguish between, does the person have influenza or do they have COVID? So that’s why, you know, somewhere in August, September timeframe, we will start actively giving flu shots. I think some of our competitors start too early and I don’t think that’s good, but somewhere between August, September, we’ll start giving influenza or flu shots because we won’t have the COVID vaccine into what I’m reading till December, maybe January, maybe even later. So everybody needs to get a flu shot this year, anybody over six months of age, it’s FDA indicated that you get an influenza shot. So you know, we’re going to start talking about it. We will definitely want to make sure if a person does get sick in the fall or when the COVID vaccine does come available. Is it influenza or is it COVID? So I definitely do not think there will be a dip. I personally feel this is going to be our biggest year personally. And I hope it’s your biggest year if you’re listening into this podcast.
Scott Vondeylen: (30:47)
Do you think, let me ask one more question, a followup to that. Do you think it’s going to require a little bit more perhaps than in-depth, and I’m just speaking from my, I always try to do my best to put myself in the shoes of you, the owner, or, you know, the patient or staff member to try to see things from their perspective. And I’m just imagining myself, you know, at the pharmacy is one of your staff members and I, and I help I’m one of your pharmacist and I help provide I’m the immunization guy for the day. Wednesday’s my day. And I’m in there to give immunizations. Is it going to take a little bit more in depth conversation around those opportunities with patients to say, I know you really are or anticipating the arrival of the COVID immunization. But it’s just as important to get your flu immunization. And I only ask this because I really genuinely believe as a consumer myself and imagining again now being the patient walking in that, I think there’s a real sense out there in the general public that, yeah, the flu, I get sick, that’d be okay, but COVID could kill me. And we know that both can kill you. I mean, depending on the individual, we don’t need to get into all that, but do you think it’s going to require… Maybe I’m crazy and tell me if I am. Is it going to require some additional conversation for many of those patients that really have that perception this year in particular as we’re waiting for the arrival of that COVID immunization?
Jonathan Marquess: (32:13)
Well, thanks, Scott, let’s be clear. Let’s make sure the audience, No, you are not crazy. But I do feel this year is going to take a little extra. It’s going to take a little extra time. It’s going to take a little extra patience. It’s going to take a little bit more time to explain, but if you think about it and if you look at the numbers, a lot of people die from influenza every year and especially our patients that are high risk, the chronic disease states. And again, we can go to our computer and we can pull out some of these and some softwares will let us print this information out. So I do think there’ll be a little education, but I hope that we’ll spend the extra time. And I hope our staff will say, you know, we have a great influence of vaccine available. Now you ought to get it so you can stay healthy and be ready when the COVID vaccine does become available.
Communicating with Patients
Scott Vondeylen: (33:04)
Yeah. Thank you for that feedback. Any other thoughts before we transition out of the, I know the immunization piece here is so big. And again, I really appreciate all of your fantastic information feedback on that, Jonathan, but any additional things we’ve left out there before we kind of move along?
Jonathan Marquess: (33:23)
Well, I think it goes back to the question and you may be getting to some of this in a minute, but I think this is where, Scott, you and your team could maybe help us to massage a message to our patients. And maybe we send out as early as possible to start, you know, I’m just making this up now start thinking about a flu shot. Now, you know, please come talk to us with questions. I would like to see maybe you and your team help us with that type of message. And we get the profession involved as well. But I do think it’s going to be a big year. I do think it’s going to be an important year. And certainly I think all of us are looking to not get people sick and it’s terrible for those that did, but we certainly want to push this COVID into our past.
Scott Vondeylen: (34:12)
Love it. Thank you for that, Jonathan. To transition out of the COVID discussion for a moment immunizations, et cetera, and just fantastic information there from Dr. Marquess, as the owner and operator. Jonathan of 10 pharmacies, you mentioned this in a side conversation that you and I had in looking back into your businesses kind of post pandemic, even though we’re still in the midst of this thing. And you said, you know, I’ve still got to think about how to run my business day to day. I’ve got to focus on where we were before COVID-19 with, you know, looking into PBMs and their influences and looking into being more profitable on the front end of my business. I know you mentioned some things to me around having your front end closed, just like every pharmacy definitely had an impact on your bottom line, as it would relate to OTC products, et cetera. What are you, or where is your mind at as an owner operator, somebody out there running small businesses. Now, having gone through this pandemic, having a, I think most of your pharmacies front ends closed down. You’re reopening those, or you’ve already reopened them in the last few weeks. Where is your mind at now in some of just the things that you could share with the other independent pharmacy owners that are listening to this to say, here’s what I’m focused on outside of the immunization opportunity, but here’s what I’m focused on to make sure that my business, my pharmacy’s on track to where it was pre-COVID.
Things to Focus On Post-COVID
Jonathan Marquess: (35:47)
Well, thank you, Scott. That’s a big one. I’ve made a few notes here. I looked back on March 14th and I said to our staff, as you know, a week ago, Monday. Pam and I put together a three point plan together for our team. So we’ve been talking to Scott about cleaning and following CDC guidelines, practicing social distancing. We shut down our pharmacies. We never closed, but we decreased our hours and we closed our lobbies, that’s the negative side. But in my opinion, Scott, we must get back on track and focus our pharmacies on thriving. Notice I said thriving and not just surviving. We’ve got to get back to the things we were doing back in January, which was, as you said, promoting sync, we’re going to continue to still promote our delivery, our delivery center I have picked up. But I have to say, I think this is the time that we can say, Hey, we learned a lot. Maybe we’ll have to do that once again in the fall, I hope not, but maybe we will. We learned a lot from that, but we have to get back to what makes us successful. And I just met with one of our new pharmacists. He hasn’t even taken his board yet. He’s a graduate intern and he sort of asked me, you know, what can I do to be successful? I said, here’s a few things. And we set these as goals for our pharmacists, but I just put them in simple language to him. I said, for every patient with diabetes, blood pressure or cholesterol that walks into your pharmacy, roll out the red carpet, give him as much TLC as you can. I also said we’d like to complete all of our MTM cases. And I also said, you know, be an active immunizer as we just talked about. But back to those chronic disease state patients, we have to get back to something. We started in 2011, medication synchronizations and boy, have I learned a lot. I used to ask patients, would they be interested in signing up for a medication synchronization program? Most people didn’t even know what that was. We’ve come a long way. Now we promote it to say, would you like us to get all your medications together so that you could pick up your medications at one time, save some trips, same some expenses and talk to our pharmacist. So that’s what I think we have to give back to. I think certainly pharmacist stepped up during this pandemic and did a huge job, as you said in your intro. But I think now we have to get back to probably that most people were doing, focus on those chronic disease patients. You know, you can call it so many different things now, but we try to focus on having one encounter a day that we document and you can document it again in your pharmacy software, you can document it in PrescribeWellness. There’s many ways you can document it, but we try to have our pharmacist have one new encounter per day and many times that’s, you know, talking to a patient about medication synchronization. Maybe it’s about an immunization. I talked to a patient last week about Coumadin and green leafy vegetables that they didn’t know about that could, that could interact with their medication. So yes, Scott we’ve had a lot to do. We’ve learned a lot, but we are definitely still full steam ahead on focusing on adherence metrics and the bottom line of our pharmacies.
Scott Vondeylen: (39:21)
I love that. Thank you for that enthusiastic answer to the question there. I’m excited. Just hearing you excited, gets me excited. I don’t even own a pharmacy. But I’m excited about the network of pharmacies that we help support. And I do love what you said there though. And I think it’s so important. One of the many nuggets that I pulled out of this interview today in this podcast is you talk about the way that you say something to a patient or to any consumer for that matter. Cause it’s not about what you say, but how you say it. So when you’re talking about med sync and trying to enroll patients and saying, you want to sign up for our med sync program and if I’m on the other end of the counter as a patient, I go, yeah, that sounds like, am I going to have to be here for another 10 minutes? Is there, you know, it’s like when you have to sign up for a rewards card and they offer you a 10% off at your local merchant and you go, no thank you. I just want to get my stuff and get out of here. I don’t need a new credit card, et cetera. So just the difference of explaining, you know, what if I told you that you could only come into the pharmacy once a month and all those benefits that you rolled through? Isn’t that something you’d want to be a part of, let’s get you, you know what, let’s get you enrolled in that. So, and I think many pharmacies from everything I’ve heard, still do struggle a little bit with that. And it’s just a slight little tweak that, you know, makes the difference in getting to those goals is as it would relate to med synchronization and, you know, getting above and beyond the hundred patients enrolled that I think so many pharmacies still struggle to get through that glass ceiling to see the larger effects that it has on the business and then on the overall workflow. So, all right, well, Jonathan, we really appreciate having you on today and taking the time out of your very busy schedule and running all of your pharmacies. And during this hectic time of COVID-19, sincerely appreciate your time and all of the really valuable information that you’ve provided today to all of our pharmacy owners out there that take part in listening to this podcast month over month. So cannot say, thanks enough. Really hope that you get some downtime here, this coming holiday, fourth ofJuly next weekend. But sincerely, thank you so much dr. Marquess for your time.
Jonathan Marquess: (41:39)
Well, Scott, thank you. And thank you and Gary for putting this together. I think it’s great that we have venues like this, and I know that’s what you do day in day out, Scott, is to help pharmacists get back to focusing our business and helping our businesses thrive. So I appreciate you opening up this technology and let us talk about a very important subject, have a great holiday weekend.
Scott Vondeylen: (42:00)
You as well. Dr. Marquess, thank you again. That is all we have today for episode six of the PharmacyNow podcast. So my thanks again to Gary, the best producer in the business, Mr. Gary Feiner. We are out, we will see you on episode seven.