Supporting Innovation in Pharmacy for a Healthier Canada

Pharmacists at the forefront of virtual care


MedMe Health co-founders (from left) Purya Sarmadi, Rui Su and Nicholas Hui.

MAY 2021 - The pandemic certainly boosted the adoption of virtual care, and pharmacy stands poised to take the lead on its widespread acceptance by patients—and perhaps serve as a model for the public system. But first, more pharmacists need to embrace the technologies themselves.

Riu Su is hoping to help with the development of a comprehensive resource to help pharmacists better navigate this new realm of patient care. “There is an initial understanding of what is going on in this space, but it’s a rapidly changing space,” says Su, co-founder of MedMe Health, which provides virtual solutions for communitypharmacy practice. “We want to help pharmacists learn how they can increase their digital literacy.”

As the recipient of a Canadian Foundation for Pharmacy Wellspring Leadership Award, Su is developing an accredited course that introduces pharmacists to the world of digital health care, and drills down on the implications and importance for pharmacy practice now and into the future. “The Canadian Foundation for Pharmacy is ahead of the curve. This is a rapidly changing time and we are creating a resource for pharmacists today.”

Su says the push for greater competency and comfort in this area has really accelerated with the pandemic. “We’ve seen in the majority of 2020 a net new change in pharmacy,” she says. For example, more and more pharmacists are using or exploringappointment-based care, online schedulers and virtual outreach. Butat the same time, video consults have not been widely embraced and virtual contact with patients is still primarily by phone, she adds.

The course will have four modules, with topics exploring terminology, trends, guidelines and practical considerations for digital health and virtual care in pharmacy. It will focus on virtual care in action and existing software solutions, as well as considerations for incorporating this into the daily workflow. Legal and legislative concerns will also be covered along with reimbursement issues, and barriers and facilitators to adoption.

“We took a long time digging through the literature and what was out there,” says Su, noting that the research has been compiled and presentations will soon be recorded. “We laid out the groundwork and filled in the gaps.”

Ultimately she hopes these one-of-a-kind pharmacy resources will get pharmacists talking about how to optimally use digital health in their practices.

Virtual care for cancer patients

The team at Sunnybrook Odette Cancer Centre’s out-patient pharmacy is determining the value of virtual care to provide medication management services that are on par with patients received prior to the pandemic.

“Telepharmacy to deliver patient counseling and clinical services has been practised for some time now; however, its use in day-to-day practice is limited, in part due to concern over which patients are appropriatecandidates for virtual care,” says pharmacist Carlo DeAngelis, Clinical Pharmacy Researcher, Oncology Pharmacy, Department of Pharmacy at Sunnybrook and the Leslie DanFaculty of Pharmacy in Toronto.

Supported by a grant from CFP’s Innovation Fund, DeAngelis and his team are evaluating the impact of virtual clinical pharmacy services (vCPS) on a patient’s knowledge, skill and confidence in managing their health, as well as their satisfaction with the information provided. “To our knowledge this is one of the few attempts to quantify the patient experience from virtually delivered pharmacist counseling services,” he says.

Research results are expected to help determine which patients are the best candidates for virtual service delivery. “The pandemic is a unique opportunity to evaluate vCPS in a real-world setting and develop an evidence-based framework to implement vCPS in the future,” he says. “This grant will allow us to improve medication-related interactions with patients and we hope that the framework will also serve to guideother healthcare disciplines delivering virtual care.”