Coleman Pharmacy balances complex processes and personal, friendly service
Not so long ago, a pharmacist had to acquire the skill of deciphering a doctor's scrawling handwriting on a prescription pad as a necessary sideline to using their pharmaceutical education in dispensing medications.
But today, pharmacists like Bonnie Johnson and Mike Smets of Coleman Pharmacy must decipher an increasingly complex process that involves phone calls, faxes, computerized orders and automated dispensing systems - plus filing the complicated documentation required by health insurance companies and government health care programs.
That they can do all this, while still serving their customers at the counter face-to-face with friendly reassurance and warm concern, is the reason their neighborhood pharmacy maintains a loyal clientele and attracts new customers.
The pharmacy business has changed, the pharmacist's most critical role has not: Mike and Bonnie take direct responsibility for seeing that patients receive safe and effective medication and know how to use it properly to improve their health.
"We have a long-term relationship with our customers, third-generation in some cases," said Mike, who followed his pharmacist father and grandfather in the profession after attending UAMS College of Pharmacy, where he and Bonnie met. The family tradition continues with one of their three children, a daughter who graduated from UAMS in 2012. Abbie Smets worked with her parents as a pharmacist for about a year, establishing a fourth generation at Coleman Pharmacy. She is soon to begin practice in Pennsylvania.
These deep roots keep Mike and Bonnie dedicated to serving their customers. They've raised the pharmacy's capabilities to meet every current technological innovation. Even as chain pharmacies have entered their market, they believe Coleman Pharmacy has a solid niche in the community based up on their personal attention to their customers and extra services such as home delivery.
Because a pharmacist is the most accessible health care professional to many people, they are often called upon to listen to customers' questions about their health or symptoms and direct them to see a doctor when appropriate.
With training as a compounding pharmacist, Mike is able to team with a patient's doctor to compound medicines in a special formulation for the individual that allows easier toleration or to avoid side effects or other difficulties.
Coleman Pharmacy also compounds veterinary prescriptions. "Sometimes we can put a medication in a liquid instead of a pill," he gave as an example, to help coax a pet to take it.
Seeking to be helpful with all aspects of health care needs, the pharmacy's staff receives training to assist customers with a wide selection of durable medical goods, such as walkers, wheelchairs and power chairs.
One staff member is an expert in custom-fitting shoes for diabetic patients. Two staff members are bilingual. Bonnie, who is more comfortable writing and reading in Spanish, is happy to know her customers also have their concerns answered in conversation.
Customers can find home medical care supplies and devices and get instructions on respiratory care, defibrillators, convalescent or orthopedic care products.
The store has a huge selection of helpful aids for better mobility, safety and daily living - for example, products to help arthritic hands grip, reach or twist in doing common tasks - plus products for child and safety.
There's another life-saving department in the pharmacy: fine gifts, plush toys, home decor, fragrances, collectibles, picture frames, jewelry, Razorback merchandise and clothing and greeting cards for every occasion, with free gift-wrap service.