MAY 2022 - Simplicity Wellness is a licensed pharmacy that does not dispense any medication.
The new pharmacy in downtown Winnipeg, Manitoba, provides appointment-based consulting services for people living with or at risk of one or more chronic conditions. “We offer lifestyle coaching and help patients manage health issues,” says co-founder Tim Smith. “Our philosophy is to meet people where they’re at. We’re not dogmatic about using a single approach. We want to help people remove the most significant barriers to better health.”
Smith and his partner, Josée-Anne Le Dorze, who have worked as pharmacists for more than 10 years, launched Simplicity Wellness because they wanted to go beyond helping patients at the dispensing counter. “We felt there had to be a better way to manage health,” says Smith. “In the pharmacy, by the time patients are coming to us they are already down the less-healthy path. At a minimum, they are already going to be on medication.”
The couple, who are also married, have built programs around what they call the four pillars of metabolic health – healthy food, movement, sleep and stress management. At present, they offer four specific programs: sleep management, metabolic wellness, pharmacogenomic testing and smoking cessation.
The “Sleep Well Without Medication” program, comprised of eight 30-minute sessions, uses cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia (CBTi), a structured, evidence-based approach to address insomnia without medications.
The metabolic wellness coaching program is for people at risk of or recently diagnosed with diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure or cholesterol. It focuses on helping patients achieve a healthy weight by resetting their relationship with food, incorporating daily movement, establish meaningful goals and creating a plan to achieve them. The program runs for at least three months and involves an initial assessment, monthly follow-up appointments to review progress, weekly touchpoints via secure messaging, and additional access to Simplicity providers as needed to help patients stay on track.
The pharmacogenomic testing program assesses 54 genes and over 100 genetic variations to ensure medications are tailored to an individual. And as a certified tobacco educator, Smith helps develop a complete tobacco cessation care plan for patients enrolled in the “Quit Tobacco” program.
“We offer ongoing coaching in all these programs,” says Smith. “We get to know the clients, their barriers and resources.”
Patients pay for value
Patients most often pay directly for the services. The fee for the insomnia and smoking cessation programs, for example, is $399. Patients may be able to get some coverage from their private health benefits plan, especially if they have a healthcare spending account. Public funding—with one exception—is not available. “The healthcare system doesn’t compensate for taking the time to consult,” says Smith. “But people understand many elements of wellness are not covered by the government. It’s about return on investment. They want value for their money.”
Public funding recently became available for the smoking cessation service. On April 1 the province rolled out “Quit Smoking with Your Manitoba Pharmacist,” a program funded through a social impact bond between the government, Pharmacists Manitoba and Shoppers Drug Mart. Participating pharmacies are compensated for an initial comprehensive smoking cessation assessment ($100) and follow-up counselling ($20 per session, to a maximum of $180).
Smith and Le Dorze officially opened Simplicity Wellness last fall after a rigorous licensing process with the College of Pharmacists of Manitoba. “They had a lot of questions,” says Smith. “They wanted to ensure we met the regulations as they stand and that were written about a decade ago.”
Their pharmacy is located on the third floor of a 13-storey high-rise building in central Winnipeg. The office is located just blocks from rapid transit and major bus routes, and for clients who use public transportation, the cost is deducted from their fees. There are also secure bike racks for cyclists. For clients who prefer the comfort of their home, Simplicity Wellness offers video consultations.
The two pharmacy owners know that word-of-mouth will be the best way to market their services and have secured several referral partnerships; for example, with the GFit Wellness portal and Remologie, a provider of products and services for sleep apnea. The owners also recently began to promote their services through social media.
Simplicity Wellness welcomed its first clients, for sleep management, in September 2021 and interest is growing in its metabolic wellness program. While the business builds, Smith and Le Dorze continue to work as practicing pharmacists, Le Dorze full time in a community practice and Smith as a relief pharmacist. He also works part time with Pharmacists Manitoba as their Pharmacy Practice Advisor.
The ultimate goal is to operate Simplicity Wellness full time with a roster of 30 to 50 active clients. Smith believes that is within reach. “There is great demand out there. Health and wellness businesses are booming across North America.”