Pharmacy-based telemedicine was one of the top sessions at the recent National Pharmacy U – Virtual.
Here’s a pharmacist who’s been practising it for years.
Phil’s Lakeshore is a busy pharmacy in the City of North Bay (three hours north of Toronto).
By Rick Brown B.Sc.Pharm
North Bay has had a physician shortage for a number of years. In fact, approximately 10,000 patients are estimated to be without a family physician in a population of 63,000 in the North Bay Region. In the summer of 2015 we as a group saw this is an opportunity to build and develop a telemedicine walk-in clinic at Phil’s Lakeshore .
The first step was to decide on a partner who shared our vision in bringing accessible healthcare to the community of North Bay. After meeting with a number of providers we decided to sign with Dr. Thom Tyson’s Appletree Medical Group. We knew his business model would work well for our pharmacy practice. They had superior software, which included a patient interactive self-serve kiosk for check-in.
Build it and they will come
The first step was to build a professional clinic and make sure the pharmacy reflected the new clinic.
At Phil’s Lakeshore the clinic was enhanced to accommodate the telemedicine clinic but also to accommodate any future healthcare providers or services. The pharmacy was smaller with limited front shop items, so it was renovated at the same time to make it a full-service drugstore.
It was clear a significant marketing and advertising campaign to promote the telemedicine walk-in clinic was important, with one of the key communications to area physicians. A fax and personal phone call to all local physician groups introduced the new service and explained that patients seen through the telemedicine clinic do not affect the remuneration of the local Family Health Organization (FHO). Press releases went to all local media, interest groups and politicians and resulted in a tremendous response with interviews, television spots and local politicians stopping by to see the facility.
Open for business
The telemedicine walk-in clinic opened in February 2016, and we were already busy on Day 1. The most critical part of the successful launch was our amazing staff. They were engaged at the start answering phone calls and explaining the new service to patients in-store. The new state-of-the-art self-serve kiosk in the walk-in clinic needed some assistance in navigating at first.
The process is fairly seamless: The patient’s information is entered into the kiosk, goes to the International Medical Grad (IMG)’s tablet on-site, which then places the patient’s name in the queue. The IMG reviews the file and meets with the patient in the examination room. The Appletree physician in Toronto is brought online where physician and patient see each other on a large screen. The IMG reviews the patient with the physician and a diagnosis is made. Each appointment takes approximately 20 minutes per patient.
Any tests, prescriptions or follow-up is printed in the clinic. The patient can then have the prescription filled conveniently at Phil’s Lakeshore Pharmasave next door or take it back to his or her local pharmacy. Patients appreciate the telemedicine service they receive and enjoy our staff at our new full-service drugstore. Many have now transferred all their prescriptions to our pharmacy – which is important for our business model.
The telemedicine walk-in clinic continues to be very successful and has become one more piece of the overall healthcare structure in North Bay. We are proud to say that we are part of the healthcare solution for the residents of North Bay!
- Choose the right telemedicine partner and technology
- Build the clinic so it is professional and patient-friendly
- Market and advertise within the community to all groups
- Ensure staff are engaged and ready to embrace the new services
- Review operations constantly to make sure the work flow continues to serve your patients and your business
Rick Brown B.Sc.Pharm is president of Innovative Pharmacy Solutions Ltd., a pharmacy consulting service.