For many people, their typical pharmacy experience involves dropping off a prescription and then picking it up a day or two later. If it’s an urgent need, they might wait while the prescription is filled. At checkout, they might be asked if they want to consult with a pharmacist, but otherwise it’s a pretty basic transaction where you pay money and get a product in return. At standard retail pharmacies, you might be checking out with a different staff person every time you visit.

But people who use independent or community pharmacies often have a different experience. For those patients, their pharmacy is an extension of their health care team who works closely with them and their physicians to maximize their health outcomes.

The range of enhanced pharmacy services can take many forms, depending on the unique service offerings of the individual pharmacy. But most importantly, patients have a chance to develop a personal relationship with their pharmacist, who can help ensure they keep regular appointments with their doctors and stay on top of their medication. The pharmacist becomes a trusted resource if the patient is sick or has questions about their medications. In some areas where the number of medical providers is limited, pharmacists are even providing some basic primary care services for patients.

Independent pharmacies also offer services like delivery, blister packaging, or medication therapy management, where the pharmacist reviews the full scope of medications prescribed by different providers to help ensure patients get the most benefit from their medications.

When patients are on multiple medications prescribed by different doctors, they may not realize possible interactions between those medications. While most pharmacy software systems are coded to flag major interactions, they don’t always catch everything. Thus, having a pharmacist review your medications, the reason you’re taking them, and how long you’ve been taking them can help ensure the right mix of medications for each individual.

While some retail chain pharmacies have expanded to offer some of these services and online blister packaging services have started to get some attention recently, we still firmly support independent community pharmacies and the added value they bring to patients. If you’ve never tried a community pharmacy, we encourage you to go visit one in your area to ask some questions and begin experiencing the difference yourself.