JUNE 2019 – After 21 years in business, Pharmacy 101 in Cobourg, Ont., is proving that independent community pharmacies can still survive long-term if they meet their patients’ needs.
“Lots of the services we’ve developed over the years grew out of need in our community,” says pharmacist Susie Jin who owns the pharmacy with her husband. “I think when services are built this way, they become even more valuable.”
For example, when the local diabetes education centre closed down for a bit, Jin and her pharmacy team focused on providing diabetes management. Even now that another centre has opened 12 kms away, the pharmacy still maintains a strong diabetes patient population and Jin and her staff collaborate regularly with the centre’s diabetes educators. “I make sure to collaborate with a patient’s entire team—whoever they are working with, I work with them too,” she says.
Similarly, when the area’s travel clinic closed a year and a half ago, the pharmacy started its own, and charges patients for services. The pharmacy has also added wound care and methadone to the mix because patients in the community were asking for it. “That’s the beauty of community pharmacy—there are so many ways to provide care to patients,” says Jin. “And when you do, so many patients are surprised that they can access this level of care in a community setting.”
Jin, who is both a certified diabetes educator, geriatric pharmacist and wound care specialist, says she still gets her best training on the job. “My best education has come from answering people’s questions, or looking things up when I don’t know the answer,” she says.
These days she admits that healthcare cuts and lack of compensation for pharmacy services is an ongoing struggle. “Sure people will pay out of pocket for good service, but there is a link between diabetes, for example, and low socio-economic status,” she says. “When we charge for services, we are contributing to their challenges.”
Jin believes the current government model for measuring services like MedsChecks is flawed because clinical outcomes can take years to show improvement. “It’s not only the short-term and long-term parameters we have to capture either,” she points out. “It’s what would a patient have done if they didn’t have access to these services in the community.”
Nonetheless, Jin chooses to stay optimistic about the future of the profession and plans to focus on minor ailments next to ensure she has enough knowledge to provide counselling that is at least as good, if not better, than the services provided by other healthcare providers in the public sector.
“Patient care keeps me inspired,” she says. “Many times in a day we give people the confidence to care for themselves and that’s positive feedback right there.”