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Profile of an Entrepreneur: Amy Russell

Prescriptive Strategies

As a pharmacy student at Drake University in mid-1990’s, Amy Russell didn’t aspire to be an entrepreneur. It wasn’t necessarily part of her vision while she completed her Master of Business Administration either, but as her career and situations changed, so did her perspective. Twenty years later, Amy owns and manages her company in the long term care (LTC) industry that uniquely identifies and meets a need within the domain of pharmacy. It didn’t come to fruition, however, without years of hard work and gleaning insight from the numerous opportunities and experiences that have ultimately proved invaluable to the position she holds today.

While in pharmacy school, Amy was not entirely certain of the setting in which she ultimately desired to practice, so she began her career in retail due to her experience and its familiarity. She had never considered long term care pharmacy during her schooling simply because she knew little about it, and the thought of starting a business sounded complicated and beyond her expertise. In her mind, Amy recalls, “an entrepreneur was a pharmacist who owned the Doug’s Drugs on the corner of some small town.” With no strong desire to pursue this type of entrepreneurial ownership, she left the Midwest winters in favor of warm, sunny beaches and took a position at Eckerd Pharmacy in Clearwater, Florida.

As she began her career, Amy found she loved the patient interaction, but counting pills and rotating weekend shifts left something to be desired. Fortunately, a door soon opened. Before her first anniversary with the pharmacy, she was given a terrific opportunity to be involved in a study being conducted by the University of Florida’s College of Pharmacy in conjunction with the community pharmacy. The College wanted to measure the impact retail pharmacists could have with cardiovascular patients, and Amy was able to recruit many patients for the study. As a result, she was soon able to spend about half of her retail work days meeting individually with patients to complete blood pressure and cholesterol levels measurements and provide motivational education related to medication compliance and important necessary dietary changes.

The study data was compelling and ultimately created a full-time job opportunity for Amy in one of Eckerd Pharmacy’s new PatientCareTM Network ambulatory care settings. There, she built great relationships with patients and leveraged those bonds, along with education and goal-setting, to help motivate patients to quit smoking, lose weight, improve their diabetes control and their cholesterol levels. The position allowed Amy to utilize her pharmacy knowledge while also applying the teaching and coaching skills she is passion about. In 2001, Amy and her colleagues won the prestigious Pinnacle Award from the American Pharmacists Association in recognition for their significant quality improvement project.

Amy spent five years with the Eckerd PatientCareTM Network, and during this time, she also pursued her MBA degree. After earning this degree, she landed a director-level job with a company that operated a chain of post-acute care skilled nursing facilities (SNFs). Although she had no experience in the LTC sector and was later told she had been the least qualified applicant for the position, the CEO saw Amy’s sense of curiosity and knew when would bring “new eyes” to existing systems and processes that a more experienced candidate might accept as standard. As it turned out, the CEO was right. Amy quickly learned the ins and outs of the nursing home business, from admission recruiting and budgeting to regulatory standards, pharmacy vendor contracting and medication-use processes..

Amy was responsible for ensuring that the contracted pharmacy vendor provided optimal medication dispensing and delivery services, accurate invoices, and thorough chart reviews by their consultant pharmacists. Inside the company, she had to evaluate that the nursing teams followed the processes in place to accept, store, administer, and destroy or return medications. As she audited the invoices billed to the facilities by the pharmacy each month, Amy became very knowledgeable about billing and all aspects of Medicare Parts A, B, C, and D. She came to understand how these Medicare products impacted both the patients—who were transitioning between different care settings—as well as her employer, for better and for worse.

Amy ultimately worked for two different LTC companies, sharpening her skills and gaining  experience. During those years, Amy said, she “had the privilege of collaborating with some of the finest SNF operators, nurse leaders, and corporate visionaries in the industry”, and though she didn’t realize it at the time, she was building an impressive network of colleagues who would ultimately contribute to her future success as an entrepreneur. After working for these corporations for about eight years, Amy ventured on her own to create her small business, Prescriptive Strategies.

Prescriptive Strategies partners with companies operating SFNs, to help them strengthen their own medication-use processes as well as to optimize their contracted pharmacy vendor services. Depending on each client’s needs and internal resources, Prescriptive Strategies might complete a one-time special project, such as designing a medication billing rule set to support the client’s existing managed care contracts, providing recommendations and expertise during a pharmacy vendor contracting process, or developing and launching a medication reconciliation program. Most often, though, clients elect to receive on-going operational support, so new programs, tools, trainings and written policies are developed to continuously work to improve the safe and cost-effective use of medications in their SNFs. Prescriptive Strategies is currently a unique business; although several larger SNF companies now employ one or more pharmacists as employees, Amy is not aware of any direct competitors that offer this type of strategic consulting services to small and mid-sized companies.

Her company’s goals are simple: be a invaluable partner to her clients—focusing on medication use opportunities that can improve safety, accuracy, efficiency and cost while keeping her clients’ own big picture goals front and center.

When asked to reflect on entrepreneurship in practice, Amy says, “starting and growing my business continues to be incredibly rewarding, especially since the ideas and strategies that I am selling are somewhat intangible and foreign to clients who may have never worked directly with a pharmacist, on their side of the table. It is incredibly exciting when a perspective client begins to understand the value that I will bring to their business and signs a contract with me . I could never take that compliment for granted; it’s very personal for me. Long term care is ripe with opportunity and is so full of competing care providers, regulatory changes and emerging technologies that it is an exciting, energizing time to work in this industry!”

There is no doubt Amy and Prescriptive Strategies are successful due to her commitment and eagerness to serve her clients, vision for the industry, and passion for leadership and relationship with those she serves.

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