When C.A. Kuykendall and his wife, Cynthia, founded Village Pharmacy & Health Services in 1971, the prescription area had a single electrical outlet.
“We used it to plug in the vacuum,” Kuykendall said.
A lot has changed in the 50 years since the pharmacy and durable medical equipment (DME) shop opened in Ozark, Arkansas. In fact, Kuykendall cites technology changes as a key driver of what he offers at Village Health Services. And the company, which serves an underserved rural community at the edge of the Ozark Mountains, hasn’t just survived, it has thrived, expanding to a second location in Fayetteville in 2010 to provide complex rehabilitation technology (CRT) and more to Northwest Arkansas.
“We’ve had trouble trying to figure out what to call ourselves,” Kuykendall said, adding that the Fayetteville and Ozark locations are under the umbrella of C.A. Kuykendall, Inc. “We started using Village Health Services as a better description of the variety of services that we provide,” he said.
Kuykendall is a pharmacist by education, but was drawn to homecare after watching his father receive in-home hospice care during his struggle with cancer in the early 1960s.
“It was before Medicare, and just having the experience of being able to keep a terminally ill person at home, I thought was a good service to provide that fit well with pharmacy,” he said. Village Pharmacy expanded to offer medical equipment in the late 1980s to meet the needs he saw in his community. Ozark is a town of just over 3,500 people near the southern edge of the Ozark Mountains.
Those needs range from complex rehabiltation and mobility to respiratory services to, most recently, COVID-19 vaccines and monoclonal antibody infusions. Village Health Services reaches most of the state with its CRT services, which Kuykendall’s son (and nominator) oversees. People came from across the state when the pharmacy began providing vaccines early this year.
Like many providers, Kuykendall overhauled his operations when the pandemic struck. The pharmacy already had a drive-through window for customers; he added plexiglass barriers and instituted new cleaning guidelines. When it came to providing vaccines and antibody treatments, the company updated its DME billing and scheduling program to accommodate appointment scheduling and add in driver’s license and insurance card pictures. Patients can opt for home infusion or can come in for an antibody treatment; the pharmacy set aside a sterile room and a separate entrance for COVID-19 patients to be able to receive the service without endangering other customers.
Billing and low reimbursements remain a challenge, Kuykendall said. Reimbursement on some items, like ostomy and diabetic supplies, is “so low that it’s not really worth it,” he said—but he continues to offer them nonetheless because they are so needed by customers. The company accepts “a little bit of everything,” including cash sales, he said.
The store’s motto is “We’re here to help you feel better,” and that means personalized customer service.
“One way people feel better when they have some problem is to have someone that they can come to visit with—hopefully face-to-face—to share their problems, get ideas, and come up with solutions,” Kuykendall said. “There’s no substitute for good customer service.”