Canadian pharmacy’s proactive approach creates better health outcomes

As a pharmacist with 24 years experience, Jessica Lau was delighted to discover an environment that allowed her to fully express her passion for healthcare, health education and, most of all, her patients. A little over two years ago, she joined the Express Scripts Canada Pharmacy, which “has a vision for pharmaceutical care that’s about proactively supporting people on their path to wellness,” she says.

Throughout Jessica’s earlier career, she and her colleagues always aimed for the highest level of care, but found that the realities of most pharmacy environments meant it wasn’t always possible to deliver her full attention to each of her patient’s daily needs and get to know them and their pharmacy benefits plan. “We simply didn’t have the time,” she explains. “It’s typical to have 10 people waiting for their prescription drugs, so at peak times, it became difficult to deliver comprehensive consultations to each and every patient that walked in the door.”

But with Express Scripts Canada’s unique approach to pharmaceutical care, pharmacists are able to organize their workday to provide one-on-one advice and care by telephone or email, at a time that is convenient for the patient, she says.

Read: A day in the life of an Express Scripts Canada pharmacist

The difference in health outcomes can be profound. For example, when cost becomes a burden, it is common to skip doses or even stop taking a drug entirely. As a result, the condition may worsen, potentially leading to complications, increased disability and missed work.

In some other pharmacies, even if the patient mentions that the out-of-pocket costs make it difficult or impossible for them to buy their medications, the time-stressed pharmacist may not have the opportunity to discuss equally effective medication substitutions with the patient, which could result in the patient having to visit their doctor again. And busy doctors are unlikely to fully understand the patient’s drug plan coverage even if they can find the time to investigate less costly alternatives.

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Outside of work, Jessica relaxes by doing word puzzles, and those creative and analytical skills serve her well in the pharmacy, too. “If someone is paying a significant amount out-of-pocket every month and there is an equally effective but lower cost drug in the same class, I’ll call to say, ‘Hey, you know what? Instead of drug A, you might be able to take drug B, which costs half as much. Do you want me to call your doctor on your behalf?’”

“They’re still getting the right drugs, but by dropping the cost, we can help them achieve better health outcomes. And, this is supported by the data found in our latest Drug Trend Report.”

Part of the reason it is possible to carve out time to do this research and communicate with patients is that refilling prescriptions is also done proactively at Express Scripts Canada, she explains.

For the first 24 years of her pharmacy career, Jessica often heard from patients who wondered why their pharmacy hadn’t reminded them they had no more refills left, or proactively seeking those who had been out of pills for a week because they’d run out medication and didn’t have time to come in. “At the Express Scripts Canada Pharmacy, we’re able to provide all the services patients ask for. We send refill reminders and contact their doctor if necessary. We like to stay one step ahead so the member, for example, has the time to get their prescription renewed with their doctor before running out of medication.”

When using the Express Scripts Canada Pharmacy service, medications arrive at the patient’s home, office or cottage. “Anywhere in Canada they choose, really – so they always have their medications on hand.”

Read: A relentless commitment to patient-centred care