It’s getting nasty, folks. In one corner, (big) pharmacy, duking it out with the Ontario government in the other. It’s all over proposed changes to the province’s prescription drug system. But long before this battle got brewing, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre was piloting a broader solution. Call it, thinking inside the box.
Imagine a large green bank machine, but instead of money, this one dispenses medications (about 300 of the most commonly prescribed drugs). It's the latest convenience in a long line of predecessors, including remote controls and cell phones. How did we live without them? Well, we could soon be saying the same thing about PharmaTrust Med Centres.
It’s an idea with long legs. As a parent, I know I’ve been stuck driving around looking for a 24-hour pharmacy on more than one occasion. With the current conflict between pharmacies and government, that could become even more difficult. This so-called “virtual pharmacy” is hoping to fill a void, especially in more remote communities.
How it works is pretty simple. After receiving your prescription from your doctor, you scan it into the machine itself. That information is transmitted to a remote pharmacist who pops up onto a television screen in front of you. You pick up the phone connected to the Med Centre and have a discussion with the pharmacist, just like you would in person, to make sure the medication is safe and appropriate. Once that’s determined, you can pay on site using your debit or credit card. And within a few minutes, the machine dispenses your medication, along with prescribing information.
The first one located in a downtown Toronto hospital is currently at Sunnybrook’s Holland Orthopaedic and Arthritic Centre. It’s also been piloted at Sunnybrook’s Bayview campus, with a thumbs-up response. Informal analysis finds most people would use it again, or recommend it to a friend.
PharmaTrust won’t replace your local or hospital pharmacy, especially for patients who would rather speak with an expert in person, but it is another choice. And it’s an innovative one that may be the future.