Over the past year, the Kentucky Board of Pharmacy (KBP) has established 11 different protocols that allow for pharmacists to test and treat patients rather than going to the doctor’s office for examination first. Until recently, no Owensboro pharmacies were instilling these protocols, but Jesica Thomason Mills, owner of Owensboro Family Pharmacy, now practices all 11.
Mills, whose parents, Don and Daisy Thomason, owned The Medicine Shoppe on Frederica Street, is currently carrying on the family tradition in the former Don and Daisy Pharmacy Plus location on West Byers Avenue.
After graduating from Sullivan University with her doctorate and MBA simultaneously, Mills purchased the pharmacy in February of 2016.
“I’m blessed that I get to come back home where I always wanted to be,” Mills said. “We are on our fifth generation of patients through our family.”
Don and Daisy Thomason operated The Medicine Shoppe for 20 years before deciding to go fully independent with Don and Daisy’s Pharmacy. And they would have continued on, had Don not been diagnosed with cancer. While he was undergoing treatment at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville and Mills was in pharmacy school, an employee “abused a position of trust.”
Mills said, despite the setbacks, her passion for family pharmacy has never waivered.
“My parents told me not to be a pharmacist, and for sure not own my own company,” Mills said. “But, [I found] even if I came in feeling tired or feeling bad — I left feeling regenerated. It’s a lot more than just providing people with a medication — we know our patients really well and are able to educate them and talk about side effects.”
Patient education has been a huge factor in implementing the protocols which include: tobacco cessation, TB skin testing (one and two-step), travel sickness, epinephrine for anaphylactic reactions, strep throat testing and treatment, self-care diabetes testing, allergic rhinitis, prevention and treatment of the flu virus and treatment for opioid use recovery.
“One our jobs is to make sure that you know how to use the medication safely,” Mills said. “We are able to pull product, test it, make sure it’s accurate and use the teach back method to make sure they know how to use it.”
These medications and supplies can include those needed for anything from smoking cessation to needles for diabetic treatment.
In the case of nicotine replacement therapy, Mills said the quit rate has increased from around 20 percent to over 70 percent with the new protocols in place.
Another driving factor has been the efficiency of patient care and the reduction in cost for those that do not have insurance.
“It is really good for patient access. If they don’t have insurance or primary care, it eliminates the need for a doctor’s appointment,” Mills said. “The cool thing about being in a pharmacy is you can be diagnosed and treated here. You do not have to go to urgent care and be around other sick people.”
Mills used rapid flu testing as an example, saying that if the test came back positive, they could provide Tamiflu at the same visit as the test.
“If [the test is] negative, we have a full supply of over the counter medicine and natural medicine,” Mills said, adding that it was more efficient than spending “30 minutes waiting in a doctor’s office then another 30 minutes at the pharmacy.”
Staying true to the concept of family pharmacy, Mills’ husband, who will complete his nurse practitioner degree this year, instructed the staff on how to properly perform nasal swabs for the flu and RSV, as well as throat swabs to evaluate for strep throat.
Mills, who believes that Owensboro Family Pharmacy is the only pharmacy in the state of Kentucky who follows all 11 protocols, has a nurse practitioner in Louisville that signs off on all of the pharmacy’s protocols.
“When they sign those, they have no liability,” Mills said. “The liability for the prescriber is turned over to the pharmacist.”
Taking note of the challenges so many other pharmacies face, Mills said she will be providing eClasses in hopes of offering a more “turn key approach” to healthcare.
“We created a template that would be user-friendly for patients and pharmacists. We will be putting out a lot of content this year to be able to help other providers get services out to more people,” Mills said. “We want to be able to bring the knowledge and ability to empower other businesses as well.”
While there is the potential for other providers in town to view pharmacies following protocols for treatment as competitive in the patient care realm, Mills intends to continue to educate herself and the community.
“The size of the obstacle you have to overcome is indicative of the opportunity,” Mills said.