National Pharmacists Month Spotlight: Travis Allison
Pharmacists are one of the most accessible healthcare professionals, seeing people 5 to 8 times more frequently per year than primary care providers. Their role has become more expansive than ever, and many people don’t realize just how integral they are to a patient’s health and well-being.
At Alto, fulfillment pharmacists focus on dispensing medication — ensuring that the entire process is carefully monitored every step of the way — while patient advocacy pharmacists tackle anything related to a patient’s wellness, from provider communication and insurance coordination to guidance on managing chronic health conditions.
These specializations have opened up entirely new possibilities for the patient-pharmacist relationship at Alto. And this October, as we celebrate American Pharmacist Month, we’re spotlighting a few of the extraordinary Alto pharmacists who focus on patient advocacy.
To kick things off, we’re pleased to introduce Travis Allison, a patient care pharmacist based in Dallas, Texas.
What motivated you to pursue a career in pharmacy?
I took the long and winding road here. I didn’t always know this was what I wanted to do. In college, I started off as an English major but had a change of heart after a semester or two. I went on to study agriculture, and those experiences made me believe that I could pursue a path grounded in science.
My childhood memories of visiting the pharmacist were always in the back of my mind. As a kid, I hated going to the doctor. When those dreaded appointments were over and done with, I knew I’d get to see a guy in a white coat who would give me something to feel better. I always saw pharmacists as a comfort in the often scary world of healthcare.
What challenges have you encountered as a pharmacist?
At any chain pharmacy — which is where I spent my career before Alto — pharmacists are inundated with so many tasks. It isn’t that these tasks are unrelated to pharmacy, but they interfere with our ability to deliver patient care.
On a typical day, I would give 100 Covid shots and fill 200 prescriptions by myself while also coordinating billing and calling doctors’ offices. We also had to think about corporate metrics. I was frequently asked to get more people signed up for text message alerts and hit specific quotas.
Patient care is always the priority, for any pharmacist, but the reality of my job made it extremely difficult, and often impossible, to give patients the time they deserved.
The first thing I noticed when I started at Alto were the specializations. We have many different team members to handle all the responsibilities that fall on a single person’s shoulders at a traditional retail pharmacy.
Tell us more about your role at Alto.
I’m a patient care pharmacist, which is distinct from fulfillment pharmacists who process prescriptions.
I review prescriptions for accuracy and initiate medication transfers, and I interact with both patients and doctors. I’m here to answer any questions a patient has about their medication.
In a way, I feel like I’m on the frontlines the same way that I was when I worked in a pharmacy chain. It’s all of what I liked about retail pharmacy without the distractions of retail. We’re able to practice our most important functions as pharmacists without the noise.
How is Alto’s pharmacy model unique?
We’re utilizing technology in a way no other pharmacy does, which allows us to communicate with patients and providers in so many different ways — without having to rush through interactions.
And the wheels of change turn much more quickly at a tech-oriented company than they do at a massive corporation. At my previous job, you could have conversations all day about what improvements were needed, but nothing ever happened. Alto was founded by software engineers, and we’re able to easily make changes in real time.
As a digital pharmacy, we serve so many patients that only we can serve. I talk to many who are homebound without a caretaker. Because of Alto’s model, I’m able to communicate with them, and we’re often their only point of contact within the healthcare system. I don’t know of another way these patients could get pharmacy care.
The digital model also allows us to get a broader view of healthcare, and to make an impact on a larger scale. Alto was one of few places where New Yorkers could get the Covid medication Paxlovid when it was first introduced.
It was incredible to be sitting here in Texas, getting prescriptions out in New York City just as a new variant came out that was really devastating to the city. At no other pharmacy would I have been able to help out my neighbors in New York.
Finally, how do you define success?
Those moments where you can tell in a patient’s voice that you seriously helped them. To me, that’s an indication of how well I’m doing my job, much more so than the number of prescriptions processed or dollars generated.