Reflecting the innovation demanded in today's fast-changing health care arena, London Drugs is leveraging Web-based technology in a partnership with doctors working within Canada's national health service.


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London Drugs, physician group facilitate care via Internet

April 25th, 2014

RICHMOND, British Columbia – Reflecting the innovation demanded in today's fast-changing health care arena, London Drugs is leveraging Web-based technology in a partnership with doctors working within Canada's national health service.

“In recent months what we have done is something quite interesting,” said John Tse, vice president of pharmacy and cosmetics at the western Canada drug chain. “Fairly new for Canada, if not the first time, we have partnered with a physician group that has been able to utilize the Internet so that patients are able to see a doctor either in our stores or at home.

“What is so unique about it is that these systems are linked up to our government’s systems, because in Canada we have universal health care and in certain parts of the country — especially in British Columbia, where we are based — the government has a central drug prescription database system.”

In other words, anyone who fills a prescription within the province must be on the database, which holds data for about 18 months.

“This system allows a doctor to connect into it to see what medication a patient is taking. Everything is done via the Internet," Tse explained. “Should there be a physical exam required, the doctor will send the patient to a clinic or a hospital if need be, but if it is not an emergency, if it’s a minor ailment, then our stores are hooked up to the situation so that when the doctor is finished with the patient, the doctor will discuss with the pharmacist the most appropriate drug therapy for that particular patient and then we are able to dispense the medication at that time right on the spot.”

Tse noted that the regulations controlling the system are very tight and there is the obvious convenience factor for the patient.

“After the physician finishes with the patient, he or she will route a full record back to all parties concerned, all the while being able to connect with the pharmacist to find the most appropriate medication for the patient,” he said.

As the Canadian government seeks to drive drug costs down, pharmacy retailers across the country have a faced a tough time in the last couple of years.

“Most drug stores in Canada have suffered a top-line sales erosion just because the government is cutting our drug prices,” Tse said. “As a result, our normal metrics are out of kilter, and it has been a challenge for the drug store industry.

“Our prescription count is still growing, which is a true measure of our strength, but drug stores in Canada are suffering and have been suffering for the last few years.”

In the past year, London Drugs has added two locations to its network of 78 brick-and-mortar stores in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. One is in Mount Lehman-Abbotsford, British Columbia, about 30 miles east of Vancouver, and the other store is in Regina, Saskatchewan. Both are “new concept” stores with bolder, brighter formats and featuring a broader range of products. The retailer also operates a growing e-commerce store at LondonDrugs.com.

“We’re a private company and we still have the luxury of being able to open stores when the location is appropriate,” Tse said. “We grow, on average, between two to four stores a year, and that plan continues.”

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