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Truck Stop Pharmacy Serves Local Rural Community and Truck Drivers

Meet the Medicine Shoppe pharmacists: Suzanna Lunsford, PharmD, pharmacist and pharmacy manager and Cedona Watts, PharmD, BCGP, board certified geriatric pharmacist.

Located in the heart of southwestern Virginia, White’s Travel Center offers almost anything that a traveler could want or need: an array of dining options, a barber shop, a movie theater and a dog wash. And since 2016, White’s is also home to the nation’s first full-service truck stop pharmacy.

The Medicine Shoppe at White’s Travel Center is an independent, community pharmacy established to serve the health care needs of busy travelers and residents living in rural Raphine, Virginia. Through a partnership with Health Quality Innovators (HQI), they are improving immunization rates, preventing adverse drug events and putting patients on the road to wellness.

Partnering with HQI

The Medicine Shoppe has partnered with HQI on several initiatives – medication safety, antibiotic stewardship, diabetes education and immunizations. “We have access to so many more resources because of our partnership with HQI. We know about educational opportunities, the Blue Bag program and training for diabetes education. It really has streamlined our process and we appreciate the support from HQI.” said Cedona Watts, PharmD, BCGP, board certified geriatric pharmacist at the Medicine Shoppe.

The pharmacy participates in HQI’s Blue Bag initiative and provides medication review for many of their patients. Watts and Suzanna Lunsford, PharmD, pharmacist and pharmacy manager with the Medicine Shoppe are passionate about diabetes education and have hosted diabetes education classes for the community. Classes have also been offered through a partnership with the local senior center where some of their patients have graduated from the program. Moving forward, the pharmacists would like to do more with diabetes outreach and education.

The Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy offers a specialized immunization center where pharmacists are certified to give vaccinations and are committed to raising awareness about the importance of immunizations. “We are currently participating in St. Christopher’s Fund, which is a non-profit that provides vouchers for truck drivers without insurance.  We are now part of their vaccine program. The fund will pay for flu, pneumonia and shingles vaccines,” said Watts. “We have done a lot with the flu vaccine. Professional drivers have really appreciated the help of the St. Christopher’s Fund with the contribution to improve their health and wellness.”

Serving the Rural Community

Beyond its truck drivers the Medicine Shoppe also serves the community surrounding Raphine. Located in such a rural area, there aren’t many options for residents who need health care advice and services. The pharmacists welcome the chance to give back to the community.

According to Watts, “I really get a chance to know my patients. They become like family. These aren’t just prescriptions, they are people.” The Medicine Shoppe offers education at the local senior center on fall prevention and medication safety. To address medication safety, they implemented the Blue Bag. The Medicine Shoppe pharmacists also work with universities in the surrounding area to help pharmacy students learn more about different patient populations.

Truck Driver Population

The Medicine Shoppe serves the population of truck drivers that pass-through White’s Truck Stop. Many truck drivers are interested in improving their health and often have questions about how to manage chronic diseases, especially diabetes and high blood pressure. They visit the pharmacists to learn how to manage their health, including how to administer their medication and understand their A1C and more.

When they are on the road, the Medicine Shoppe is one of the only places that truck drivers can go to get medical assistance and supplies. According to Lunsford, the pharmacy often helps drivers with medication refills, a challenge when you are often on the road. “We are an important resource for truckers who need assistance or advice with over-the-counter medications,” said Lunsford.

Other services include therapeutic shoe fittings (billable through Medicare Part B), medication therapy management or medication checkups (Blue Bag reviews). The in-person review is a game changer for drivers. Many bring in their medications for review and discover they have been using them incorrectly. The Medicine Shoppe helps them learn to take them as prescribed.

“The Blue Bag review has been very successful because many patients are older and may have more than five medications,” said Watts.

Many of the Medicine Shoppe’s patients have experienced improved outcomes such as better management of diabetes and lower rates of hypertension. The Virginia Department of Transportation requires that drivers keep their blood pressure under control.

For example, Lunsford recently saw a driver with a dangerously high blood pressure. After referring him to a local physician – John Marsh, MD. – the driver immediately started taking blood pressure medication. “When we saw him a month later he was still taking the blood pressure medications and doing much better.”

For Watts and Lunsford, the appreciation of patients makes their work worthwhile.

The Future

So, what does the future look like for the Medicine Shoppe? Moving forward, they will continue the immunization program, provide diabetic information and products, hold classes and offer medication checkups. “We have found a niche. We have 3500 people coming through the truck stop daily and we can reach so many of them. We give a varied population access to care and are an important part of the continuum of care,” said Lunsford.
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