For more than 60 years, the Walsh family have worked diligently to bring healthcare closer to their patients, both inside and outside the doors of Walsh’s IDA Pharmacy in Arthur, a rural farming community located approximately 50 kilometres north of Kitchener, Ontario.
By Talbot Boggs
Photography by JP Borchardt
Pharmacist-owner Joe Walsh, along with his wife Cheryl and their two children, is carrying on the tradition begun by his father John in serving the 3,500 residents of Arthur and another 2,500 in surrounding areas.
“We’ve lived in Arthur all our lives and are really connected with the community,” says Joe. “We’re your stereotypical rural pharmacy and do just about everything to cater to the health needs of our patients. We will go to their homes, and through our website they can connect directly with us in the town and get all the information on our products and services. You name it and we’ll do it.”
On his days out of the pharmacy, it’s not uncommon for Joe to visit patients to conduct MedsChecks or inspect their homes for mobility devices, safety features and expired prescriptions. “It lets me see people in their natural environments and get to know things that they might not tell me in an office setting in the store,” he says.
With the change in the neighbourhood pharmacy business in Ontario, Walsh decided in 2010 to place a strong emphasis on home healthcare products and other health-related services in his 6,000 sq. ft. store to generate new income streams and improve the quality of patient care. He offers an extensive range of bathroom safety products such as grab bars, safety rails, bath seats, bath transfer benches and boards, toilet safety frames, raised toilet seats, bedside commodes and bed pans and urinals. If he doesn’t stock the items himself, he can order them.
Value-added offerings for the community
He offers regular compounding, blister packaging and home deliveries, flu shots, and a series of in-store clinics on heart health, diabetes, cholesterol, arthritis and other health topics during non-winter months because of winter weather and travel challenges for his non-resident patients. Walsh has implemented a patient reminder system which automatically calls patients and notifies them when their prescriptions are ready or need refilling.
From a computer in a kiosk in the store, patients can access a catalogue of more than 3,000 products, get information on more than a dozen common disease states such as first-stage Parkinson’s, osteoporosis, dementia and others, and recommended home healthcare products to help them manage these diseases in their homes. He also offers hospital beds and the rollator – a walking device equipped with a seat – which patients can purchase or rent.
“It’s all geared to keeping people in their homes as long as possible,” notes Joe. “Through the computer we can meet the needs of people in a much larger trading area, many of whom are in very rural and remote locations and might not easily be able to come to the store in person.”
The key to being able to feature effective home healthcare products and services is having a dedicated staff. After he shifted the focus of his business toward service and home healthcare, Joe added extra staff, whom he now calls his ambassadors. “They are the biggest plus to my business and my ability to offer superior home healthcare products and services to our patients,” he says. “This is what we’ve tried to provide to our community for more than 60 years and what we’ll continue to do in the future, and for that you need a great team.”