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Michael Counts says Guardian Pharmacy of Missouri delivers medicine to 3,000 patients daily.
SBJ photo by Wes Hamilton
Michael Counts says Guardian Pharmacy of Missouri delivers medicine to 3,000 patients daily.

Business Spotlight: Meds on Wheels

Long-term care medicine service Guardian Pharmacy triples its office size in $1M move

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A medicine provider for long-term care is tripling its office size to 15,000 square feet and adding new equipment for a total price tag exceeding $1 million.

Guardian Pharmacy of Missouri LLC, a company specializing in medication management services, signed a seven-year lease to share a building with landlord Diversity Commercial Investments LLC and Rhomar Industries Inc.

President Michael Counts says Guardian Pharmacy spent $650,000 for leasing and infill work of its new facility, 2107 E. Rockhurst St., Ste. C. It moved from the building next door. The remaining costs of $350,000, he says, went to additional equipment to place medicine in packaged strips.

“We bought more automation to do the strips. Then we have robots to check to make sure the meds are correct in each strip,” Counts says.

The robotic automation machine InspectRx takes pictures and scans the strips to make sure each medication is correct for the patient. Counts says the $250,000 machine is a rarity in the Midwest, and it comes from the Netherlands.

“It’s new in long-term care,” he says. “There’s automation at Walgreens and other places where they have machines to fill vials and things like that, but the way we do it in long-term care is different.”

Guardian Pharmacy works with Ohio-based Cardinal Health Inc. and Florida-based McKesson Medical-Surgical Inc. for its medicine supplies.

Moving meds
The pharmacy’s service is purely delivery to assisted-living communities.

“We don’t have any customers that come to our door,” Counts says. “We deliver everything seven days a week.”

Guardian hires Preferred Courier Services LLC to deliver the meds.

“I don’t want to be in the business of managing drivers, so they’re kind of like UPS for me,” Counts says.

Preferred Courier Services started 25 years ago in Springfield and offers armored van service, bank deposits, package transport and other delivery services.

“We’ve been working with Guardian for the last eight years,” says owner Gary Baldwin.

He says Guardian is one of 30 commercial accounts handled by Preferred Courier Services in Springfield.

“We’ve been able to meet his delivery needs,” Baldwin says. “Whenever he needs something, we take care of it.”

Those needs come daily, with medicine being sent one day at a time to minimize waste after nurses fax orders to Guardian.

Counts says the company’s service area is a three-hour radius from Springfield, which encompasses St. Louis, Columbia, Joplin and parts of Arkansas.

“I have two account/salespeople that travel the southern part of the state and I have nurses that do that also,” he says. “The industry is very relationship-based. It’s a lot of networking because it’s a big trust they put into you to take care of medications for their residents.”

Medication destination
Guardian started off as Uvanta Pharmacy of Southern Missouri almost 10 years ago with just a team of two.

“I started the pharmacy with my dad in 2009, and we were 50-50 partners,” he says. “Then my dad wanted to retire and I didn’t want to sell. I loved what I was doing.”

Two years ago, Atlanta, Georgia-based Guardian Pharmacy purchased Counts’ father Jerry’s shares of the company for an undisclosed amount.

“I get to run the pharmacy the way I want and everything is local, but I get the resources of a bigger company,” Counts says.

Guardian now works with about 60 assisted living homes and 3,000 residents, including the Manor at Elfindale and The Gardens in Springfield.

The business relationship with The Manor at Elfindale began in 2012.

“We were looking at different providers for service,” says Matt Gould, administrator at The Manor at Elfindale. “We were unhappy with our current pharmacy vendor.”

The Manor at Elfindale receives deliveries daily from Guardian, along with consulting and medication reviews, Gould says.

“Guardian gives you daily packs of medicine,” Gould says. “It’s much more economically feasible.”

Guardian also works with its customers to manage the Medicare Part D “doughnut hole” period of coverage where medicine costs are paid out of pocket until a higher expense threshold is reached.

“We have a billing team in-house and in our assisted living community specifically,” Counts says. “We go to those communities and we’ll have a luncheon or afternoon session, the residents will come and we’ll coordinate with them and figure out the best plan for them to reduce their medication costs.”

The sessions occur each year in October, with Guardian using the Medicare website analyzing tool which ranks medicine from least to most expensive.

“One of the things we provide to our customers is training,” he says.

Assisted-living nurses and medication aides are trained on-site through a 16-hour class and testing, led by Guardian staff.

The company now has 50 employees, and Counts says he’s hiring another eight pharmacists and pharmacist technicians in the next 90 days.

Declining to disclose revenue, Counts says annual growth averages 12-15 percent.

Along with the changes in Springfield, Counts has another expansion in mind.

Guardian is planning to open a pharmacy in December in St. Louis.

“Our plans for the state of Missouri are to service the whole state,” he says.

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