Bob Warnock didn’t go to pharmacy school to sell garden hoses. But for a time, that was part of his job description. He chuckles when recalling how, as a fresh-faced twenty-two-year-old graduate, he suddenly found himself managing a pharmacy and overseeing a staff that mostly dwarfed him in age. Retail—though it provided him invaluable experience in leading a team and managing financials—was not Warnock’s initial goal. “I kept thinking that I was trained really well to do a job that I wasn’t getting to do enough of,” he says. In other words, Warnock wanted to spend more time serving patients and less time in aisle five.
Warnock’s commitment to patient care is underscored by a career path that includes virtually every sector of the pharmacy field. “I’ve seen the business from about every side,” he says. “It gives you a unique perspective on what’s needed and what’s not needed in the business.” His current position as senior VP of pharmacy services for PruittHealth—a postacute care healthcare provider based in Georgia—is a reflection of a career spent almost entirely in senior care. Pruitt currently services about 150 different nursing facilities spread across four states.
His introduction to senior care and nursing home services was the result of an early move to Georgia Geriatrics, a job where Warnock was able to focus specifically on pharmacy. “There was no selling garden hoses,” he says, with a laugh. “It was what you go to school for if you go to school to be a pharmacist.” When the company was absorbed, he was made head of clinical pharmacy services, a role he continued in until deciding to leave the established company with proven clientele for something much riskier.
“It doesn’t matter where you come from. It’s what you can contribute.”
“I got a call from a guy who said, basically, ‘I’ve got a retail pharmacy and several nursing homes that are willing to work with me, but they want me to bring in someone who knows long-term care pharmacies,’” Warnock says. “That would be me.” The idea of working for himself was something he had thought about often. This seemed like his chance. “We worked together to build a business from nothing,” he recalls.
Warnock and his partner were able to turn a pharmacy run on a shoestring budget with hypothetical clients into a thriving business servicing thirty-six statewide nursing homes. They successfully sold it to Omnicare in 1995. Warnock fondly remembers how, on the last day of the month, he and his partner would assemble the budget for the next thirty days while crunching numbers overnight at a nearby Waffle House. “Our boardroom at that time was a little less ornate,” he says.
Warnock reflects on those times often, as they served as a serious lesson in learning how to operate efficiently. Rather than hire someone to take after-hours calls for the company, the partners took overnight and weekend calls themselves for nearly ten years. “There’s nothing that makes you want to get up and go to work like it being your money,” Warnock explains. “It’s a great motivator.”
Warnock’s duties at Pruitt-Health are a bit different, primarily including overseeing regional postacute care services at the dozens of nursing care facilities they service. Additionally, he oversees development opportunities, such as managing five pharmacies, a home-infusion pharmacy, and a mail-order pharmacy. These are projects Warnock hopes to grow into larger businesses over time. “Sometimes we’re good at it; other times we learn from it and try something else,” he says. The key is a willingness to experiment to better serve his patients.
When looking back on the experiences that have defined his success, Warnock emphasizes the importance of building the right team. He works hard to make sure that the people he hires feel comfortable voicing their opinions, and that those opinions are the result of different styles of thought. “You try to hire people that are smarter than you and people who aren’t the same,” he says. “I don’t care whose answer is the right answer; I just care about the right answer.”
As a leader, Warnock sees his role as a barrier breaker. “My job is to take a lot of smart people with a lot of great ideas and get things out of their way so they can go do them,” he says. He cites his mother and father’s humble upbringing in his career development, as well. “It doesn’t matter where you come from,” he says. “It’s what you can contribute.”
Currently, Warnock is working to help educate his patients before they leave the nursing facility as to how their medication works and how it can best be utilized, especially in conjunction with other drugs they might be taking. “We’re working on how to better transition patients,” he says. “Previously in my career, that is not something that was widely considered. Companies are now more incentivized to make sure that patients have positive outcomes wherever they are—not just their place of business.” PruittHealth is aggressively pursuing a culture that follows up with patients, checks to make sure each is in touch with their primary care physician, and at times, even gets employees to talk through the contents of a patient’s medicine cabinet to make sure they aren’t mixing conflicting medications.
Although a bulk of Warnock’s time is devoted to senior care, he’s only recently earned the title of grandpa with the birth of his first grandson at the end of 2016. He cites many years of watching his sons play soccer as critical points of both growth and relaxation. He and his wife are avid hikers and have braved many of the country’s national parks and just about anywhere else where “phones won’t work.”
All of this is an indicator that, in both his personal and professional life, Warnock prefers to stay connected to his humble roots. Although the scale and responsibilities of his work have grown, he still treats his job with the same determination as when he was selling garden hoses.
GeriMed is proud to have a partnership with Robert Warnock, D.Ph., CGP, senior vice president of pharmacy services for PruittHealth, Inc. GeriMed is a group services organization (GSO) offering solutions to pharmacies servicing long-term care (LTC) patients. Learn how GeriMed can strengthen your bottom line and empower you as an independent LTC pharmacy provider. Call or click today: 800-456-4374, [email protected], GERIMEDGSO.com.