Virtual Pharmacies Provide Unique Benefits for Older Canadians
By: Jason Kennedy, RPh, general manager, Virtual Pharmacy at TELUS Health
Over the past two years, older people in Canada have shown resilience in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve seen those in this group take matters into their own hands and demonstrate more proactivity in managing the various aspects of their physical health.
Throughout the pandemic, Statistics Canada research found that older Canadians were more likely to be concerned about their health and to take precautions against COVID-19, were more likely to have gotten vaccinated, and were more likely to use delivery services to get their groceries or medications as a means of protecting themselves.
When the pandemic began, people across this country were forced to become familiar with “virtual” healthcare, as many medical appointments made the shift to online. By the end of 2020, over 50 per cent of Canadians had transitioned to receiving some part of their healthcare virtually and interestingly, in late 2021 the Government of Canada reported that older Canadians were the highest users of these services.
In some ways this makes sense as older people tend to have more healthcare appointments, and digital health services are proven to be effective and are easily integrated into one’s life. This new format for receiving care also allows people to personalize how they manage their health with many app-based services providing medical support along with allowing people to track different aspects of their health regimen in real-time – cardiovascular, diet, sleep, stress, and more.
But as virtual healthcare quickly evolved in Canada, one area that proved to be slow in offering an optimal digital experience was pharmacy services. This has now changed as TELUS Health recently launched Virtual Pharmacy, a comprehensive digital service that can support people with multiple medication management, personalized support and broader pharmacy needs. This is the next evolution of Canada’s digital healthcare continuum.
Making pharmacy services more accessible and giving users more time
Virtual pharmacies have great potential in improving the lives of older people. Users are able to fill prescriptions online, set up automated refills, have prescriptions delivered directly to their door and set up private virtual video meetings with registered, Canadian pharmacists. The service allows users to get the full pharmacy experience without having to go to a physical location.
People can access this new service on a mobile device or desktop signing up for free, entering their drug coverage information, and transferring new or existing medications to their account. This streamlined process ensures prescriptions are kept up to date, refills are not missed, and the most current information about medications is at your fingertips. To simplify the experience for those taking multiple medications, services like MedPack provide a customized pill dispenser making it easy to take medications accurately.
Accessing personal healthcare can help increase feelings of independence for older people and decrease stressors associated with trips to the pharmacy – both of which can help them focus more on the important things in life – friends, family, hobbies, and uninterrupted downtime.
A service that helps improve medication adherence
Recent research has found that medication non-adherence, meaning people not taking their medications on time, is a growing issue in Canada and this is often attributed to people not being able to get to their neighbourhood pharmacy regularly to pick-up their medications.
In a recent survey, one-third of Canadian respondents said they often missed picking up their prescriptions, which translates into a lot of missed medications and an increased risk of compromised health. Sixty per cent of these respondents said they simply forgot to pick up their prescriptions, with 50 per cent citing they were too busy with work or personal activities to do so. This can be an even bigger challenge for older people, those with mobility issues, and those who take multiple medications requiring refills on different dates.
Virtual pharmacies directly address the challenges experienced by these groups as the service streamlines the process of managing all prescriptions in one place, sends reminders when refills are required, and has medication shipped directly without the need to walk, or drive, to the pharmacy.
Harness the power of digital technology to get on track in 2022
Digital health technology holds great potential for people across Canada looking for ways to better manage their health and wellness without the need to commit to time-consuming appointments and waiting rooms. App-based pharmacy services such as TELUS Health’s new Virtual Pharmacy can provide those across Canada with more freedom and control over their medication management along with helping them access other pharmacy services from the comfort of their home. Above all else, these technologies can allow people to focus on other aspects of their health, and spend time with those who mean the most to them. Pharmacy services should be made easy, and now they are.