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Small Business Snapshot: A Winning Combination

Friendly service, invested staff and easy access make Knox Professional Pharmacy stand out

By Lorie Hailey

In a world where many retail chain pharmacies offer 24/7 services and mail-order prescriptions have become more prevalent, smaller pharmacies have had to go the extra mile to survive in such a competitive environment.
For 45 years, Knox Professional Pharmacy has been a staple in Barbourville, Ky., not only helping residents with their prescriptions, vaccinations and health-care supplies but participating in and supporting numerous community programs and events. Now in its second generation of ownership, the pharmacy also has embraced technology that makes it easier for patients to access pharmacy services. The “hometown” feel of Knox Professional Pharmacy—friendly service from people who know you—combined with convenient access has made it a strong competitor in a saturated market.
“We truly care about our patients and our community,” said co-owner Frankie J. Abner, who has worked there for 23 years, 12 of those as a pharmacist.
Abner’s father, George Hammons, opened Knox Professional Pharmacy in April 1976. In October 2017, Abner and her business partner, pharmacist Cory Smith, took over its ownership.
“As soon as I was old enough to know what a pharmacist was, that’s what I wanted to do,” Abner said. “I grew up watching my dad care for his patients and our community.”
Hammons, 70, continues to work part-time at the pharmacy.
“My dad is my hero. He has always been selfless in caring for others and helping others whenever he has the opportunity,” Abner said. “I want to be the kind of person he is, the kind of person who is trusted and can be counted on by everyone.”

The Lane Report: What services/products do you provide?
Frankie Abner: We provide traditional prescription services along with a line of durable medical equipment (DME), diabetic shoes with custom fitting and insoles, medication therapy management, Dispill (multi-dose) medication packaging and immunizations.

TLR: How many employees do you have?
FA: We have a total of 21 employees, including pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, certified pharmacy technicians, DME specialists, billing specialists and HR coordinators.

TLR: How have things changed in your field since you first opened?
FA: Since the pharmacy opened in 1976, there have been lots of changes. Insurance claims began to be billed online instead of paper claims. Prescribers began to send prescriptions electronically. Prescription drug monitoring programs were implemented to track the prescribing and filling of controlled substances. Over the years, insurance formularies have changed and continue to change regularly. We are having to deal with coverage issues and prior authorizations more than ever. New medications come onto the market frequently so we must keep up with new medications and treatments regularly.

TLR: When you meet someone new, how do you describe your job?
FA: I start by telling them that I love my job. I fill prescriptions for patients and counsel them on how to take their medications, when to take them, what to look out for with side effects, and answer any other questions they may have. I also provide them with information about vaccines and administer to them the ones they qualify for. I spend time daily communicating with other health care professionals as well to ensure my patients get the best care for them.

TLR: What’s something about your company that makes you feel proud?
FA: We have always been active in our community, and we are a family-oriented employer. We try to make sure our employees never have to choose between their job and their families.
We try to stay very involved in our community. We offer travel immunization clinics to local schools and workplaces, speak at community group meetings on different topics such as immunizations and proper medication disposal. We donate to many academic and sports programs in the area. Over the past year, we have had the privilege of donating PPE (personal protective equipment) and hand sanitizer to local schools and churches.

TLR: What has been your biggest challenge as a company and how did you overcome it?
FA: Our biggest challenge is fighting insurance companies, as many of them begin to try to force mail-order prescription delivery to their subscribers while continuing to decrease reimbursements to locally owned pharmacies. This is a battle we are still facing, but we make it our daily goal to retain the business and trust of our patients by offering services that cannot be received in the mail. ■

Lorie Hailey is special publications editor for The Lane Report.
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