BC’s 8-1-1 opts for North West Telepharmacy services
August 4, 2021
VICTORIA, BC – HealthLinkBC has awarded the 8-1-1 telehealth pharmacist services to North West Telepharmacy Solutions (NTS), the incumbent provider since 2013. Residents of British Columbia can speak to a telehealth pharmacist every evening from 5 pm to 9 am Pacific Time, every day of the year, to answer medication-related questions (a time when the local community pharmacies are often closed).
8-1-1 is a free-of-charge provincial health information and advice phone line in British Columbia, operated by HealthLink BC, which is part of the Ministry of Health. By calling 8-1-1, residents of British Columbia can speak to a health service navigator, who can help find health information and services; or connect the caller with a registered nurse, a registered dietitian, a qualified exercise professional, physician or a licensed pharmacist.
NTS introduced a dedicated team of pharmacists to answer calls providing increased reliability of questions answered in real-time. “A previous model tried to leverage a network of community pharmacies open after-hours to try answering calls from across the province,” explains NTS founder and director Kevin McDonald (pictured). “In our opinion, our dedicated team of pharmacists ready to answer calls is a more efficient, reliable and cost-effective approach.”
Sally Ginson Duke, the NTS Pharmacy Services Lead for the 8-1-1 service describes the volume of calls. “The volume of calls fluctuates in different seasons, but on average we answer 2,000 calls per month, with higher monthly calls in the fall and winter season – almost 2,500 calls or more. Certain conditions that get in the news media, such as an outbreak of meningitis in a school or waves of COVID-19 can also lead to a spike in calls.”
The calls can range from brief 2-4 minute interactions which permit dosing clarification or recommendation for medication use at home; to more in-depth assessments which may result in transfer to a partner service, such as BC Drug Poison Information Centre, or a plan for the caller to schedule a follow up with a primary care provider.
A wide variety of patients are served including newborns, pregnant or breastfeeding women, toddlers, school-aged children or youth to adults and people well into later decades of life. Pharmacists may be asked to confirm if a medication is safe to use for a particular caller and if so, what dose may be best, or, if it will interact with any other medications taken.
Managing medication side effects or errors is another common theme. The team is also on to give information on vaccinations, a key element of disease prevention in these times. The majority of dispositions are to support callers in safe home treatment options using non-prescription or prescribed medications.
NTS recently presented a poster highlighting how over 25% of all Canadian adverse drug reactions reported to Health Canada by pharmacists, over a three-year period, was completed by the NTS telehealth pharmacists.
“All provincial telehealth services should look at a similar model implemented by HealthLink BC,” suggests Sammu Dhaliwall, senior manager of business development with NTS. “Every Canadian should have access to a pharmacist to ask medication-related questions 24/7, around the clock, especially when dealing with adverse drug reactions. Most Provincial telehealth services in Canada are still not incorporating the medication expert, a pharmacist, within their service offerings. We have a successful model which can support all provincial telehealth services.”
Providing care via telephone has been a valued service for many callers who prefer to receive care at home to limit unnecessary community exposures amid a global pandemic. NTS is pleased to partner with HealthLink BC to provide high-quality telepharmacy services now and into the future!
About HealthLink BC
HealthLink BC provides reliable non-emergency health information and advice in British Columbia. Information and advice is available by telephone, our website, a mobile app and a collection of printable resources. Through our programs and services, you can get the information you need to make decisions for yourself and those you care for. With our website www.healthlinkbc.ca and telephone service 8-1-1, information is available wherever you want it, any time of the day or night, every day of the year. 8-1-1 is a free-of-charge provincial health information and advice phone line available in British Columbia. The 8-1-1 phone line is operated by HealthLink BC, which is part of the Ministry of Health. By calling 8-1-1, you can speak to a health service navigator, who can help you find health information and services; or connect you with a registered nurse, a physician, a registered dietitian, a qualified exercise professional, or a licensed pharmacist. British Columbians who may be deaf or hard of hearing can call HealthLinkBC at 7-1-1 (TTY) or, for Video Relay Services, call 604-215-5101. HealthLinkBC.ca provides medically approved information on more than 5,000 health and nutrition topics, symptoms, and interactive health tools and tips for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Our HealthLinkBC Directory also offers an integrated search and mapping function to more than 6,000 health services to help British Columbians find health services in their communities.
About Northwest Telepharmacy Solutions
Northwest Telepharmacy Solutions is the leading provider of remote pharmacist services with over 60+ hospital clients across Canada, along with servicing Primary Care Clinics, Long Term Care Homes and Telehealth services. With over 115 pharmacists on staff with expertise in all areas of healthcare, Northwest Telepharmacy Solutions can provide community hospitals access to expertise not previously available, especially in rural and remote locations. For more information, please visit Northwest Telepharmacy Solutions at https://www.northwesttelepharmacy.ca.