“My motto is, you’ve got to stay involved to be at the table, or chances are, you’re on the menu,” says Jeff Bartone of Hock’s Pharmacy. As he works to keep his Ohio communities healthy and happy, Jeff continues to go above and beyond to establish his place at the table of pharmacy with his unique pharmacy services, active participation in legislation, and his constant eye on the future.
A love for pharmacy is a Bartone Family tradition: Jeff’s parents purchased Hock’s Pharmacy in the 80’s from Bob Hock, and Jeff remembers growing up around the pharmacy. Jeff’s wife is a pharmacist, and even his mother still works at Hock’s.
As the future owner of Hock’s Pharmacy, Jeff already has goals set for his beloved store. “We opened up a second location in 2013, which is this location we’re sitting at now. So, I’m trying to grow it little by little, one day at a time.” Service plays a big part in that growth, and Jeff has found and implemented unique ones that draw more patients to his pharmacy.
One of those services is Hock’s Advantage $5 Program, Jeff’s method for helping his patients save money. The program offers many of the in-demand drugs at Hock’s at a low cost of $5. Jeff actually implemented this plan a few years before Wal-Mart began their $4 prescription program. “We built this program to reduce copay costs for patients,” Jeff explains. “They don’t even have to use their insurance, and it helps uninsured patients because back when it was released, there wasn’t the Affordable Care Act or the insurance advantages there are now.”
With the help of iMedicare, Jeff reaches to potential Part D customers to assist them in choosing the best plan when they turn 65. Jeff and his staff actively target this demographic to ensure their questions are answered, as well as avoid potential penalties for failing to select a program after they have turned 65. Staffing makes this project successful: Jeff appointed one of his pharmacists to make MTMs, Part D Plan evaluations, and Part D Plan assistance with patients his primary focus in the pharmacy.
Jeff has even taken a unique approach to reaching younger demographics (25-55) that may not be so concerned with Part D plans. Jeff meets with the employees of small businesses to discuss self-funded health plans and affordable drug options, such as the flu shot. “We market to employers and say ‘Let us meet with your employees. We’ll reduce their drug costs to get them more compliant and keep them healthier. They’ll not only show up to work on time, they’ll miss fewer days.’” The lower drug costs save the employers money, which is another incentive for them to work with Jeff. After he meets with the employees, whether to discuss insurance plans or administer flu shots, Jeff always finds ways to connect and stay connected with them so they’ll become lifelong customers.
Med sync is his strategy for keeping these new patients, and Jeff is honest about his initial reluctance to start a program. “It’s a lot of work. It’s a very daunting task,” he confesses. Of course, every pharmacist feels overwhelmed or doubtful about starting a med sync program; fortunately, Jeff’s staff was willing to help him take the plunge. “I had a technician bring it to me who wanted to do it, and I didn’t want to stifle the enthusiasm and go-getterness, but I was very reluctant,” he remembers. “I said ‘You need to start with five patients. Let’s start small.’ One week later, she had twenty, and I said, ‘What are you doing? I thought we agreed to five!’ So she kept it at twenty for thirty days just to appease me, and now we’re at six hundred patients as of last week. I’m a firm believer now.” His program not only keeps his patients healthy, the monthly phone calls help his staff stay in tune with their patients’ health needs.
Of course, the issue with the rising generic prices comes up in conversation, but Jeff seems unshaken by it. “I think it’s an opportunity for independent pharmacists, as well, because you have to buy the generics right.” Buying right, or speculative ordering, is the process of watching the patterns and of drug prices and predicting costs and margins, then ordering based on those patterns. Keeping a close eye on patterns and changes for maximum allowable cost (MAC) and the average wholesale price (AWP) as well as cost within a generic family can help maximize profits through speculative ordering, and it’s something that every pharmacist should be doing in 2016, according to Jeff.
Fill more scripts, do med sync, and reduce cost, and cut inventory. Those are the biggest pushes you hear, right? I just don’t think cutting inventory is the answer because, then, what if there is a market shortage? You just turned that patient away because you don’t have the product or you can’t get it.”
Outside of Hock’s Pharmacy, Jeff actively participates in pharmacy legislation. He served as the second youngest president of the Ohio Pharmacist Association and is currently the immediate past-president. “My big push when I was president of the OPA was to push through maximum allowable cost transparency, and we were successful about that. Another big push was the pharmacy audit legislation to put some curbs on audit practices of PBMs and what they could and couldn’t do. Audits are still allowed, but the abuse of practices are curbed significantly,” he explains. Jeff has even travelled to Washington, D.C., to advocate for pharmacy and has met with Ohio Senator Sherrad Brown at an OPA conference to discuss the pharmacy industry.
As pharmacy and service continue to be a family tradition for the Bartone's, Jeff is always thinking of the future (maybe even a future that includes 3D printing vials and pills). However, the factor behind all he does for the industry is simple: community. “With so many acquisitions this day and age, people have to know that you’re here as a partner to them, as a helper to them,” Jeff says as he explains the key to success. From his successful programs and services to his partnership with the OPA, Jeff’s works are building a brighter future for this industry and his community.