Back to the Future

Back to the Future


In a time of cookie-cutter pharmacy franchises that offer packaged convenience at countless locations, some people still long for the old-fashioned local pharmacy. With a soda fountain at the back counter, and a well-worn foyer, the local pharmacy was a gathering place – a place where children spent their allowances while adults sifted through the details of everyday life.

But Pat Spanel, director of home medical equipment for Kohll’s Pharmacy in Omaha, Neb., insists that the old-fashioned local pharmacy still flourishes in her hometown. And the pharmacy’s approach to serving the community hasn’t changed, she says. Kohll’s pharmacists still strive to know every aspect of their customers’ lives in order to treat each person effectively. But today, an approach that once was called “old-fashioned” now is called “holistic,” she says.

“We look at a customer’s whole body,” Spanel explains. “We’ll do an assessment on incoming patients, asking a lot of questions about their health – not just giving them a walker. Our goal is to identify the needs of our customers to improve their quality of life.”

For Kohll’s, a family-owned pharmacy business that has operated in Omaha for more than 50 years, offering HME is essential to this holistic approach, Spanel says.

Beginning a decade ago, owner David Kohll recognized a need among his pharmacy patients for specialized home medical equipment such as bathroom items, wheelchairs and crutches.

“There was so much more that a pharmacy could do to help its patients,” Spanel explains. “As we became more involved in this market, we started to grow.”

Then, two years ago, in response to Omaha customers’ increasing HME demands, the Kohll family decided to renovate drastically all of its seven retail pharmacy locations – transforming as much as 75 percent of the pharmacies’ floor space into HME showrooms.

Kohll’s replaced gifts, cards, makeup and common non-prescription drugs with HME consultation rooms, fitting rooms and a wide variety of equipment, from compression stockings to post-mastectomy products to power wheelchairs. One location even boasts an in-store track that customers can use to test Kohll’s mobility products.

Spanel estimates that HME now accounts for nearly 50 percent of Kohll’s business.

Ultimately, though, skilled staff that keep abreast of the latest developments in HME are the glue that hold all of the pieces together, Spanel says.

To ensure that each customer finds the product best suited to his or her needs, Kohll’s employs respiratory therapists for small children, certified post-mastectomy specialists, pediatric occupational therapists, a sports trainer, a dietitian and a wellness expert. Additionally, twice per month Kohll’s invites vendors to present new products to pharmacy staff.

Anyone who believes the old-time pharmacy is a thing of the past obviously never has visited Kohll’s – where Omaha residents still gather at their local pharmacy, and where packaged prescription drugs have not completely replaced the mortar-and-pestle.

Has good thinking in retail paid off for your business? HomeCare magazine would like to hear about it. Contact Brook Raflo by phone at 770/618-0200; fax: 770/618-0204; or e-mail:

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