MAY 2018 – After 41 years in the business, Simpson’s Pharmasave has become adept at change. In fact, embracing it has kept the pharmacy thriving, says pharmacist/owner Sean Simpson. “It’s a constant evolution, trying to stay at the forefront of pharmacy practice in order to provide a better experience for patients,” says Simpson. “You can’t let your guard down in this profession or you’ll fall behind pretty quickly.”
When he joined his sister and father in the family business in Virgil, ON, 12 years ago, the goal was to maintain the pharmacy’s stellar reputation for patient care and introduce new pharmacy services—all while dealing with ongoing drug reforms that were eliminating traditional pharmacy revenue sources. Simpson says that required an ability to anticipate growing healthcare trends in the community and ensure staff had the training needed to optimally provide any new services introduced.
Eventually Simpson took over the business entirely, opening a second pharmacy in 2010—Simpson’s Apothecary in Niagara-on-the-Lake—to service a growing tourist population in the area. There he implemented a compounding lab to address the unique medical needs of patients. The pharmacy specializes in compounding bioidentical hormone therapy, sports and veterinary medicines, as well as pain treatment. Today, 50% of patients pay for these services when they’re not covered by a health plan.
His pharmacies were the first in the region to provide a now highly successful weight management program called Ideal Protein, in addition to offering a point-of-care hearing test, with a hearing aid available over the counter. Simpson and his team also altered the pharmacy set-up to make pharmacists the first point of contact, with pharmacy technicians at the back-end doing technical checks. “These kinds of transitions aren’t easy and require a lot of time with the team to ensure we’re not missing steps,” says Simpson. “It’s also about educating and meeting resistance from physicians and even patients who are used to doing things a certain way.”
Simpson’s pharmacy evolution hasn’t stopped there either. In 2015 he joined forces with another independent, like-minded pharmacist in St. Catharines, Enrico Simone, to start the SimErgy Health Network. Together they now operate six pharmacies in the Niagara region, with another in the works.
In a time of unprecedented upheaval in the profession, Simpson says demonstrating the value of pharmacists is more critical than ever. “No matter what we are doing, there is a real impetus to ensure we are providing value at every opportunity,” he says.
Fortunately, his patients are taking notice. “Living in a small town, I often get calls or get stopped in the street by patients telling me how grateful they are for our services and what a great staff we have,” says Simpson. “That really is the greatest reward.”