American Pharmacists Month Spotlight: Dr. Andy Pottenger

The town of Lewiston, Idaho on the Idaho/Washington border was once named the #1 town in the country by Outdoor Life magazine. So when pharmacist Andy Pottenger purchased an independent pharmacy in Lewiston in 2015, he drew inspiration from the land when choosing a new name. Hells Canyon is North America’s deepest river gorge and is the area’s best known attraction, so Pottenger chose the name Hells Canyon Pharmacy. Born and raised in Lewiston, Dr. Pottenger graduated from nearby Washington State University and worked for a short time before jumping at the opportunity to own an independent pharmacy right in his own hometown.

When Dr. Pottenger took ownership, the business had served the area’s 70,000 or so residents since 1968 under various owners. However, modern conveniences were lacking. The pharmacy had no website other than a Facebook page. There was an old-fashioned cash register, which he immediately replaced with more modern equipment. There was no automated phone system for refills, so the phone rang constantly. It was very clear to the new owner that bringing the pharmacy into the digital age should be his top priority.

Dr. Pottenger quickly migrated the company’s Facebook page onto the newly-branded Facebook page for Hells Canyon Pharmacy. He used word-of-mouth promotions and relied heavily on content from Digital Pharmacist to populate his page with helpful, interesting articles to draw in more users. He views Facebook as a means to communicate with customers, so getting them to “like” the page and continue to engage would be a necessity. To increase his audience, he offered contests whereby people could win tickets to local events like the Lewiston Roundup rodeo by liking and sharing on Facebook. Before long, the pharmacy’s Facebook audience had grown by 400%. Dr. Pottenger hopes to reach even more customers via Facebook with an upcoming Garth Brooks concert ticket giveaway.

Rolling out a new company website was also a key to success. Hell’s Canyon Pharmacy’s new site established the brand identity for the company including the new name and logo. It communicated the store hours and location and allowed customers to refill prescriptions online.

Of all the changes Dr. Pottenger made, the one with the most impact was the store’s new branded mobile app. He used word of mouth in his stores and his Facebook page to encourage customers to download the app, which allowed them to submit refill requests at their convenience, right from their mobile phones. Dr. Pottenger says that he initially received resistance from customers, who wanted to continue speaking to a live person.  But six months later, the difference is incredible. He says that the app, “Has been huge for us. People love it. These are the same people who were initially the most resistant to the change. Now I get feedback all the time that my customers absolutely love the app, and appreciate how easy it is to use.” The numbers tell their own story – already, about 175 refills per month come directly through the mobile app.

A few years into his new venture, Dr. Pottenger continues to innovate. He recently launched one of the area’s only compounding labs, to provide customized medications that are not available at a traditional pharmacy. He works with local doctors and veterinarians to provide these additional options for patients and their pets.

Dr. Pottenger’s goal was to completely modernize the business, but he couldn’t do it on his own. He explained that “I was lucky enough to find Digital Pharmacist. I didn’t have the knowledge or quite frankly, the time to design my own website or create an app. My partnership with Digital Pharmacist enabled me to provide these options for customers. It essentially transformed my business overnight.”