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Kilgore’s Medical Pharmacy serves the community with two locations in Columbia and one in Ashland. Bill Morrissey, a doctor of pharmacy, is the current president of Kilgore’s and one of five partners in the business, alongside Ann Bromstedt, Beth Stubbs, Laura Kingsley and Bob Kilgore.
Morrissey started working at Kilgore’s part-time in 1996, while working full-time for a chain pharmacy in Columbia. “The chain I worked for, if you came in to fill a prescription, we took care of that, but if there was anything complicated, we didn’t do it there,” says Morrissey. “I found myself continually referring people to Kilgore’s. My customer service nature didn’t feel right having to send people away.” Morrissey eventually switched his roles around so he worked full-time at Kilgore’s and part-time at the chain. He later bought in as a partner.
Morrissey says that working in a flexible environment is the most fulfilling aspect of his career. “Helping those people and seeing how grateful they are is probably the thing that really lets you sleep well at night,” he says. Morrissey adds that in running a business, the manager hears when customers are dissatisfied. “But if they’re very happy with the service and want to tell you how much your employees have helped them, that’s what really makes you smile and makes you feel like it’s worth it.”
To be competitive with other independent pharmacies and big-box stores, Morrissey says it’s about service. Everyone sells the same pills, and prices are regulated for the most part. “You go to a chain pharmacy and you’re going to wait for over an hour. But you’re sick and you don’t want to wait … we offer free delivery within city limits, our drive-thru is very fast, and our typical wait time for a prescription is 15 minutes or less,” Morrissey says. Kilgore’s also stays competitive by offering various programs for customers, including providing medical equipment, having staff nurses administer medicine, and offering compounded medicine.
Morrissey has also seen the changing role of PBMs in his business. He says those companies have now grown and evolved to a point where they negotiate directly with the manufacturer, making operating without PBMs impossible.
Technology has also changed the landscape, adding different robots and counting machines that aid in accuracy and efficiency for the pharmacy. Kilgore’s has added some of this, but the company also tries to stay true to being an independent pharmacy focused on customer service. “We choose to employ technicians who will count out the prescriptions and talk with customers in the store and on the phone,” Morrissey says. “In the world we live in, technology is cool, and it brings a lot to the table, but there are also things we lose in not having a face-to-face conversation.”
The aging population has caused an increase in the prescriptions they fill daily. “From a business standpoint, you might say ‘great, more prescriptions means more business,’ but in reality, you have the PBMs, so the reimbursement we get paid for prescriptions has gone down significantly, especially in the last 10 years,” Morrissey says. To break even, pharmacies have to fill more prescriptions in the same amount of time.
Morrissey says that the insurance outlook has changed significantly over the years, especially with the Affordable Care Act, but he doesn’t think the full impact has been seen yet. “We have seen an increase in people who have an insurance card,” says Morrissey. “Do I think the insurance plans that have been put out there have helped people financially? I question that.”
One of the main takeaways Morrissey has learned over the years is the importance of giving everyone the empathy they deserve. “From a business standpoint, I’ve learned a lot,” he says. “Business is different than health care, and pharmacy kind of blends them. In health care, we’re focused on taking care of people. Business is focused on trying to make money. Those two things don’t always go together; sometimes what’s right for the patient isn’t the most profitable choice.”