When he launched his career as a pharmacist in the mid-‘80s, Igor Shaskin never imagined a significant part of his work would involve care of post surgical wounds, fitting customers with compression stockings and dealing with incontinence and sports related injuries.
By Randy Ray
But more than a quarter century later, the co-owner of Stafford Pharmacy & Home Healthcare in Lethbridge, Alberta relies on home healthcare – including ambulatory products, diabetes care, bathroom safety equipment, diagnostic devices and hot and cold therapy – for about 40 percent of his annual sales.
In fact, his 4,000-sq. ft. store bills itself as “Southern Alberta’s Home Healthcare Centre.”
“Future growth is not going to come from cough and cold or the front shop. It is going to be in specialized services, the dispensary side and homecare,” says Shaskin B.Sc. (Pharm), RPh., B.Mgt., whose healthcare revenues are growing by five to eight per cent annually and in the past have grown by as much as 20 per cent per year.
It’s a part of the pharmacy business whose time has come. To free up valuable beds, most hospitals send their patients home to recover from surgeries. Also, today’s active 50-plus crowd is looking for solutions that help them deal with health issues quickly so they can get on with their busy lives.
“They may have chronic diseases, but they want the latest treatment to keep them going and productive and they want to have access in the community or as they recover at home,” he says.
“To me, home healthcare and pharmacies are a proper fit. Who is better prepared to be involved in this part of the business from a professional perspective than pharmacies?” he asks.
A history of home healthcare
Stafford Pharmacy & Home Healthcare, named for the street on which it is located in north Lethbridge, has been involved in home healthcare since its doors opened in 1985. The home healthcare business picked up steam in 1988 when Shaskin’s sister Laura joined the business after a lengthy nursing career at hospitals in Alberta and British Columbia.
The store has undergone several expansions, and over time grew “category by category,” says Shaskin, until its products and services covered most aspects of home healthcare, with the exception of heavier items such as electric stair lifts and motorized wheelchairs.
Customers range from young children to people in their 90s, but the bulk of Stafford’s clientele is in the 45-plus age group.
A visit to the pharmacy reveals a lengthy list of home healthcare offerings that includes but goes far beyond the wound and first aid items most pharmacies carry: bariatric products, compression stockings and lymphedema products, convalescent and comfort care, electrotherapy devices, home activity products, incontinence and urological products, light (S.A.D.) therapy, orthopedic supports and sports medicine items and products for post mastectomy and pre-natal and post-natal care.
Stafford Pharmacy also carries products that help recovering patients deal with everyday activities, including forks, knives and dishes for people who need assistance with feeding, long handled shoehorns and reachers. Some must be special ordered.
In addition to its in-store line of foot care products, the store for several years has offered a full spectrum of supplies online through its website. In coming years, Shaskin hopes to make other home healthcare wares available online.
Many product categories are quite sophisticated: for example, specialty dressings for specific stages of a wound healing process and other dressings for more complicated, unmanageable wounds, as well as compression stockings, for varicose veins, post deep vein thrombosis or lymphedema, which provide graduated compression, greatest at the ankle and less at the calf or thigh.
Rental programs offer customers access to medical equipment needed for short periods of time.
While Stafford Pharmacy stands out from the competition for its unparalleled selection of products, more importantly the store is known far and wide for its exceptional customer service.
“It is not enough to simply provide the products. We recognize the importance of understanding different medical conditions and providing the most appropriate product for the needs of our customers,” says Shaskin. “Sourcing the newest and best products is a priority along with educating our home care staff to better serve patients. Striving to do better everyday is all in a day’s work for us.”