JANUARY 2021 – Less than a year after earning her Doctor of Pharmacy from the University of Waterloo in 2018, Rui Su and two partners co-founded MedMe Health, which provides virtual solutions for community pharmacy practice, such as online appointment scheduling and virtual care tools. Business that first year took root and Su was excited by the potential for growth in the years ahead.
And then came COVID-19. Since the start of the pandemic, Su and her partners have barely had time to catch their breath. Today they proudly serve more than 600 pharmacies in nine provinces, and have helped pharmacy staff care for more than 450,000 patients.
Rapid regulatory changes and the need for contactless service delivery due to COVID-19 accelerated MedMe’s momentum. For example, a number of provinces enabled billing for virtual medication reviews. As a result, says Su, “we’ve seen significant shifts in digital health in the last year.”
Another contributing factor to MedMe’s success: tools tailored to the pharmacy’s workflow. “We are the first to actually create a holistic, all-in-one platform that is designed uniquely for pharmacists. People no longer have to piece-meal multiple solutions together,” says Su.
Virtual care, delivered
The patient care platform helps pharmacists schedule, conduct and track clinical services, both virtually and onsite. Pharmacists can securely conduct video and phone consults and documentation forms are pre-populated and compliant with regulatory requirements. Patients do not need to set up accounts or download apps, and they receive automated appointment reminders as well as follow-ups by text or email. Proprietary algorithms also enable pharmacies to identify clinical service opportunities. “MedMe helps pharmacists practise to their fullest clinical scope,” says Su.
Following on a year that saw demand soar for virtual pharmacy services as well as influenza vaccinations (for which MedMe developed a module for online booking, pre-screening and reminders), Su and her colleagues are preparing to deliver on the next critical service: COVID-19 vaccinations. “That is the next goalpost, and to support all the nuances.” These nuances, she notes, include different vaccine brands and different legislations for rollout across provinces and territories.
A helping hand
Of course, technology often brings with it a learning curve. MedMe offers a helping hand. “Our support is the best in class,” says Su. “We help with training, with change management, with process flows.”
And that help is not limited to MedMe customers. In 2020 Su applied for—and successfully received—a grant from the Canadian Foundation for Pharmacy’s Wellspring Leadership Award in order to develop a CCCEP-accredited course that introduces pharmacists to terminology, trends, guidelines and practical considerations for digital health and virtual care in pharmacy. The goal: to create a comprehensive resource for pharmacists to better understand the vocabulary, impact and challenges of digital health for pharmacy practice now and into the future.
Su believes that the future will see pharmacies serve as community health hubs, with virtual and on-site services tailored to the local community. “This is where I see the future of brick-and-mortar pharmacies. They will be a central hub for the delivery of proactive and sustainable care. Pharmacy’s digital transformation is something that absolutely needs to happen.”
While the idea of transformation can be daunting, Su believes pharmacists need to believe in themselves. “We need to have confidence in our resilience. We have the ability to innovate.”