|Member Profile - Sheldon S. Sones, RPh, FASCP|
Sheldon S. Sones, RPh, FASCP
Providing Services to Ambulatory Surgical Centers
This is one in an occasional series of member profiles. All pharmacists were asked to provide answers to several questions. This was originally published in the August, 2014 issue of The Consultant Pharmacist.
Tell us about yourself and your business/ practice.
I graduated from Brooklyn College of Pharmacy in New York, with roots in institutional pharmacy. I became director of pharmacy at Mount Sinai Hospital, Hartford, Connecticut, when I was 26. But my passion was nursing education. I developed a 17-week pharmacology course for nurses and traveled throughout the Northeast twice a year teaching. Over the years, almost 7,000 nurses took the course, “Pharmacology for Nurses Who Thought Pharmacology for Nurses Is Always Boring…But Are Wrong.” That became a springboard for teaching at two schools of nursing, including Yale University School of Nursing, New Haven, Connecticut.
For several years I served as chief operating officer of a small hospital. Later I began pharmacy consulting after a friend in long-term care asked me to be his consultant shortly after a requirement to do so was passed in Connecticut. It was professionally and personally fulfilling. I soon learned that the staff actually looked forward to the services I provided and that my real passion for pharmacy and senior care was alive and well. I also realized that when you educate providers they do well for their patients—especially seniors. Eventually I came to own an independent pharmacy consulting company that served more than 80 long-term care facilities in the Northeast. It subsequently was acquired by Omnicare, and I worked for the company in several capacities.
Today, I have a unique practice—a pharmacy consultant to ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs). They were running without instruments, pharmacy-wise. In the early days, I’m not sure they all knew what they didn’t know. Safe medication management in this setting has been largely neglected as a practice. In many ways, it was evolving the way long-term care consulting had. Working with freestanding practices not only provides the chance to influence outcomes, but also presents the possibility for a lucrative practice; the opportunities are enormous.
This unique practice involves visiting each site for three to four hours, ranging from monthly to quarterly. Today, I personally serve more than 115 facilities, with another 90 by collaborative agreements with pharmacists in 10 states. These various sites range from cataract centers, fertility clinics, pain management centers, and dialysis and outpatient radiology services. Some sites are physically separate, though many are tied financially and administratively to hospital outpatient departments.
Despite the fact that state oversight of outpatient sites generally is not required, all of these ambulatory facilities have identified the cost-benefit of having a consulting pharmacist, and they hold our consulting services in high esteem. I also work as corporate consultant to companies that own or manage these sites, with five such management agreements; one group owns or manages 200 facilities. I also teach pharmacists about policy and regulatory issues.
This unique practice has much to offer: an appreciative clientele, a significant impact on patient care, flexibility in scheduling—and high compensation.
What have the highlights and challenges been over the years?
Like any other business, the challenge is getting started. In 1978, I began moonlighting as a consultant to ASCs while I was still a hospital pharmacy director. Facility #1 spoke to #2 that knew #3, and my business began to have significant traction. Surveyors also began to recommend the service, and that was powerful. In California, a practitioner who started a similar practice began with one facility and now he has six. I guess good outcomes make good incomes.
What advice can you offer other consultant and senior care pharmacists? What would you say to someone who is considering a similar business model?
I have long been active with ASCP, and I would like to see the Society become more proactive about supporting this specialty. Programming at our meeting stimulates interest in getting started in ambulatory surgical center consulting. Consulting fees from these centers are highly attractive because they pay me directly. I have never had to pursue receivables. But don’t quit your day job until you have built up your practice. Growth is slow.
What are your hopes for the future of your business/practice?
I would like to work with pharmacists in different states, as I now do in 10 states, to help them get involved. Everyone wins: the stakeholders, the patients, the ASCs owners, the nursing staff, the surgeons—and practicing pharmacists.