In response to COVID-19, DrugSmart pharmacy has launched a virtual walk-in clinic so individuals can receive and refill prescriptions from the comfort of their homes.
The service can be accessed by visiting the DrugSmart website, where a three-step process allows users to get the medicine they need remotely. Using the online form, individuals can enter their personal information into the system. The information is relayed to a physician, who then contacts patients by phone or on a secure video platform, typically within an hour.
“You can go from a doctor to a pharmacy shipping you [a] drug, without leaving your house, with the setup we have,” said Andrew Ting-A-Kee, pharmacy manager at DrugSmart Pharmacy on Queen’s University campus, in an interview with The Journal.
After the consultation, prescriptions or medications are faxed to DrugSmart where they can be picked up in-person or delivered directly to an individual’s home.
Despite current COVID-19 preventative measures and the subsequent closure of many businesses, including the offices of some family physicians, there is still a need for many people to receive medical care.
“Anywhere from 60 to 80 per cent of most patient complaints can be handled virtually without the need for an in-person assessment,” Dr. Michael Varenbut, a family physician involved with the DrugSmart program, said in an interview with The Journal.
Depending on the condition of the patient and whether it can be dealt with virtually, the patient may be directed to an open walk-in clinic in the surrounding area, an emergency department, or a COVID-19 assessment centre to seek further in-person treatment, according to Varenbut.
“It’s always easier to just reach out and have a telemedicine consult. It’s free, it doesn’t cost the patient anything,” he added.
The DrugSmart virtual walk-in clinic website states that its services are only covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP). This leaves out-of-province students to seek coverage through platforms insured by their respective provincial government or private healthcare plans.
Varenbut pointed to several benefits and limitations to the implementation of telemedicine, both to patients and the healthcare system. For example, virtual care may be beneficial to some because it eliminates accessibility barriers and increases time efficiency. However, physicians are unable to prescribe controlled substances through the system, so others might still require an in-person visit to obtain their medications.
Additionally, he explained that virtual care reduces the cost of healthcare and length of wait times by limiting people in walk-in and urgent-care clinics who have conditions that do not require an in-person consultation.
Varenbut said the virtual “walk-in” clinic will continue to be available to Queen’s students and individuals without a family physician after the pandemic has cleared, as long as there are physicians willing to see patients outside of their general practice.
“The ideal situation is for patients to maintain their relationships with their family doctors if they have one,” Varenbut said. “Ideally, the patients’ needs are looked after, irrespective of where they are and what modalities are available.”
This article was updated to correct the spelling of Ting-A-Kee’s name.
The Journal regrets the error
Covid-19, DrugSmart, Student experience
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