Upstate HomeCare looks to be the one

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

ROCHESTER, N.Y. - Upstate HomeCare opened a retail pharmacy in June, but the provider does not plan to compete with the Walgreens of the world.

"We're looking to take care of the sickest of the sick," said Greg LoPresti, vice president and COO. "We want the patients that have from 10 to 40 prescriptions from (multiple) prescribers. When you have that many prescribers, you're chance of medication errors goes up exponentially. We are looking to be their one pharmacy."

Upstate patients can order prescriptions online or via e-mail; it also offers home delivery. For now, the pharmacy will focus on oral medications, although it may expand to some over-the-counter items in the future.

The retail pharmacy is located in the same building as two other Upstate businesses, a home infusion pharmacy and a DME. Locating the three together allows for greater efficiencies, with combined customer service, delivery and nursing operations, said LoPresti.

Pharmacy and HME are a natural fit, said Avi Weiss, director of homecare for H.D. Smith, a pharmaceutical wholesaler.

"Pharmacies are looking for new avenues to expand their customer base by adding DME, and DMEs should look at pharmacy," he said. "They piggyback each other wonderfully."

Retail is a new game for the 25-year-old Upstate, so the provider took its time launching the new venture, said LoPresti.

"We took a year to button up our policies and procedures," he said. "The hardest part is making sure you are in all the payer networks. There are so many drug plans out there."

Upstate will focus marketing efforts on its existing referral network.

There's a lot of crossover among the various patient populations, said LoPresti.

"I'd be hard-pressed to find a single home infusion or DME patient that does not have an oral medication," he said. "And down the road, they are going to have other needs."

The 25-year-old Upstate has seven locations. Home infusion comprises about 60% of its overall business. The company's annual sales have grown from $12 million last year to $18 million this year.