Prescribing customer service

A pharmacy planned for downtown Franklin will measure and package daily doses of medication, deliver prescriptions to homes and meet customers at the curb with their order in hand.

Franklin pharmacist Andrew Murray and his wife, Jamie, plan to open Franklin Community Pharmacy at 30 S. Water St. in September. It would be the only independently owned pharmacy in the city and one of only two in the county.

Independently owned pharmacies can struggle to compete with the multiple locations and huge marketing budgets of chains, such as CVS and Walgreens. Last year, independently owned Henderson Drugs closed its pharmacy after being open for 136 years in downtown Franklin and now focuses on home medical equipment sales and rentals.

Murray, who has been a pharmacist since 1998, has seen the industry change dramatically. But he still sees successful independent pharmacies in small towns around the Midwest. The key to being successful is staying on top of what’s happening in the pharmacy marketplace, without neglecting the importance of building good relationships with customers, he said.

“We’re going to employ some of the newer-age pharmacy medicine management concepts, but we’re also going to have the same touch of the old small-town pharmacy with the soda fountain that you would have had years ago,” Murray said.

Other keys to success include offering important services that the larger pharmacy chains offer, such as accepting health insurance, as well as those that they do not.

For instance, Franklin Community Pharmacy will offer a free service where the pharmacist measures out daily dosages for patients taking multiple medications in large, sealed blisterpacks. This saves the patient the hassle of measuring out their dosages from several bottles and makes it easier for them to take proper doses of their medication while traveling, Murray said.

The pharmacy will offer free prescription delivery. The goal is to start the service in Franklin, but Murray hopes to serve Edinburgh, Bargersville and other surrounding rural communities, Murray said.

Curbside service will be offered to customers who struggle with mobility. Murray is working with the city to reserve a curbside parking space for his customers in front of the pharmacy to make the service possible. The pharmacy won’t have a drive-thru, which can compromise a pharmacist’s ability to give important instructions and advice to patients about their medication, Murray said.

“I don’t feel the profession of pharmacy is a drive-thru profession,” he said. “I think it’s the pharmacist’s responsibility to provide better education on medication management to patients, and it’s hard to do that through a drive-thru window or while screaming over an intercom.”

Murray and his family have lived in Franklin for five years and in Bargersville four years before that. When he moved to the area in 2006 from his native Michigan, he had a pharmacist job at Camp Atterbury. But when the camp was making staff cuts three years ago, he looked for work at small pharmacies in the area. With job openings scarce, he took a job with Hometown Pharmacies in Gobles, Michigan, where his mother lives. Since then, he’s made a four-hour drive there daily, except when bad weather forces him to stay at a hotel or his mother’s house.

Murray has long wanted to have a pharmacy of his own and wanted to be closer to home and family.

“I’m looking forward to being a full-time father and husband again,” he said. “Jamie’s had to do a lot of running the kids here and there while I’ve been gone at work. And I’ve missed a lot of tee-ball games.”

The Murrays chose Franklin for the business because of its growing downtown and all it has to offer for their children, Nolan, 7, and Maci, 5. Plus, Jamie Murray is a Franklin native.

“We were not able to find a town in Michigan that has all of the opportunities for kids and families that Franklin has,” Murray said. “We decided that since our kids are school age and Jamie is from Franklin, it was a no-brainer.”

Jamie Murray, who will be the pharmacy’s business manager, is looking forward to being a part of Franklin’s downtown and serving her longtime neighbors.

“I think it’s exciting,” she said. “Franklin is changing for the good. It’s nice to be able to work for yourself in the town where you grew up.”