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Columbia Business Monthly

Simplicity Community Pharmacy to Partner with Physicians’ Practice to Simplify Health Care Delivery

Aug 23, 2023 04:50PM ● By Licia Jackson

Dr. Sabrina Russ has a vision of what a pharmacy could be. Far from being just a place to get prescriptions filled, it could be a community health hub, where clients get information about drug interactions, smoking cessation counseling or screening tests for diabetes. It could be a place where a patient’s health care needs are simplified through better relationships among patients, doctors, health care facilities, and insurance companies. That’s why Russ has plans for Simplicity Community Pharmacy, LLC.

The pharmacy, which Russ plans to open in 2024, will be in a suite of offices next to Wellspring Family Medicine in Northeast Columbia. She will partner with Wellspring physician Dr. Damon Daniels to improve patients’ access to care.

“Community pharmacies are placed in a unique position to make an impact on clinical and economic outcomes while reducing health care costs,” Dr. Russ explains. Wellspring, with 11,000 patient visits per year (which includes physician visits, nurse practitioner visits, and all ancillary services), is an independent physician’s practice, and Simplicity will be an independent pharmacy.

Simplicity Community Pharmacy will also be the first African American woman-owned pharmacy in a physician practice in Columbia, according to Russ.

Russ has been a pharmacist for 24 years, earning her bachelor’s degree from Medical University of South Carolina and her Doctor of Pharmacy from the University of Florida. She is board certified in geriatrics and specializes in consulting with patients 65 and older. After working in retail pharmacies, she opened Simplicity Pharmacy Services and Wellness Center Inc., a medication therapy management company, in 2004. She has been consulting with Wellspring Physician Practice since 2012.

“The pharmacist’s role is evolving,” Russ said. “We look at a patient’s medication list to see if we can take them off some of their prescriptions, which is known as de-prescribing. We will do a medication review and a medication risk assessment.” The review focuses on optimizing drug therapy by checking for side effects, duplicate drug therapy and medication safety.

Another buzz word is “polypharmacy,” which refers to a patient who is taking five or more medications. Dr. Russ’s mission is to decrease polypharmacy in high-risk Medicare beneficiaries, while increasing medication adherence to improve health outcomes. She points out that polypharmacy is one of the driving issues for the need for patients to move into assisted living.

Simplicity Community Pharmacy is competing in the inaugural $30K PowerUp competition for startup companies in South Carolina. Presented by Integrated Media Publishing and Erik Weir, the competition offers entrepreneurs an opportunity to win a grant from $5,000 to $15,000. Russ says that she would use the grant for start-up costs for her brick-and-mortar pharmacy, which she estimates at more than $73,000 including upfit, furnishings, computers, supplies, insurance, and inventory.

Russ will work as the pharmacy manager at first, with two pharmacy technicians and a part-time pharmacist. Simplicity Community Pharmacy will operate the same hours as Wellspring Family Medicine, Monday through Friday. While the location is not set up for a drive-thru, plans are to offer curbside service.

In the pharmacy’s first year, Russ plans to offer:

Chronic care management services coordinating with Wellspring Family Medicine to help patients with complex medical regimens for conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol

Medication therapy management

Medication adherence packaging as an alternative to traditional medicine bottles. Medications can be placed in blister packs, one for each time of day with all needed items included

Transitions of care, when a patient is moving from one facility to another (such as hospital to home or rehab) and medication dosages and duplications need to be checked

Medication synchronization, scheduling so that all medications are refilled at the same time.

Simplicity Community Pharmacy will serve the needs of anyone, not just Wellspring patients. Conversely, Wellspring patients can choose another pharmacy if they like. Russ said she will work to find other resources to meet patients’ needs if cost is an issue.

As the role of a pharmacist evolves to become more clinical, Russ said she is grateful for the innovations of Daniels, who sees the value of her skill set in managing patient care. “A pharmacist sees patients more in a year than their physician – at least 12 times,” Russ says. “We know their needs and can observe things about them, such as a decline in memory. We can be a health care navigator, helping close the gaps in care.”

As Simplicity Community Pharmacy gets up and running, Russ has goals to add other services such as remote patient monitoring, medical equipment, and compounding.