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Online Pharmacy 101: What you need to know about virtual pharmacies - The Health Depot

Online Pharmacy 101: What you need to know about virtual pharmacies

By: Tahani Dakkak
BSc, MMASc, PharmD ‘23


Let’s set the scene. You have a prescription to be filled and have to drive for 15 to 20 minutes to your local pharmacy. You give your prescription to one of the pharmacy staff members, who then asks you to wait for 20 to 30 minutes for your prescription to be filled or ask you to come back later because they don't have the medication in stock. You realize that you spent almost an hour to get your prescription filled or may have to make another visit to pick up your medication.

You see, pharmacies are busy places and so much is happening behind the counter. Here is a scoop from a Pharmacy Student who's worked in community and specialty pharmacies: we don't just count your pills from a stock bottle and make sure it's the red round capsule your doctor has prescribed. There is so much more that happens behind the pharmacy counter to ensure that your medication is safe and effective. Deciphering your doctor’s handwriting, checking for drug interactions, and ensuring that the medication will meet your needs takes time, making wait time an inseparable element from your experience of filling a prescription. However, luckily, technology has rapidly changed the face of healthcare today allowing healthcare professionals to provide more convenient care to meet the ever-changing needs of Canadians today. With the rise of virtual clinics, pharmacies have been rising up to the challenge of using technology to offer patients more convenient options. Online pharmacy is a new innovative concept that offers patients a seamless option to getting prescriptions filled from the comfort of their homes. Now you may be wondering, what is an online pharmacy? Is it safe? How do I reach my Pharmacist?

Here’s what you need to know about online pharmacies, how it works and what kind of services can be provided. 


What is an Online Pharmacy?

Online Pharmacy is a virtual pharmacy that uses innovative technology to receive prescriptions from patients, fills the prescription at their site, then delivers the medication to the patient. Some online pharmacies also have an online health store offering health essentials and over the counter medications to be purchased online and delivered with prescription medications. This new concept allows people to take care of their health needs from the comfort of their home, saves travel and wait times but most importantly allows patients to connect with their pharmacists remotely.

Here is an example of an online Pharmacy based in London, Ontario, Canada that strives to provide patients with a seamless approach to getting prescriptions filled. In early July of 2020, I joined a talented team at the Health Depot Pharmacy that has been keen on helping me become an excellent Pharmacist able to deliver excellent patient care.  

The Health Depot Pharmacy

The Health Depot pharmacy was co-founded in 2019 by Andy and Agata Donald to make the pharmacy experience simple, offering a seamless approach to getting prescriptions filled. They have a vision of improving patient care using new and innovative technology to make filling prescriptions more convenient and accessible but also offer a one-stop-shop for Ontarians to meet all their health needs.

Here is a brief list of the services provided by The Health Depot Pharmacy to Ontarians and Canadians at large: 

1. Prescriptions  

To get your prescription filled at our pharmacy, have your doctor fax your prescription or phone one of our pharmacists. Alternatively, you can also take a picture of your prescription and submit it to us through PharmaConnect, a mobile application that allows patients to submit prescriptions and request refills. Prescriptions submitted by 1 pm, will be delivered the next day free of charge anywhere in Ontario (Home, work, or cottage). Once it's shipped by the Pharmacy, you will be provided with a tracking number to track your shipment. You also have access to a number of pharmacists on-site through video chat, online chat or phone to answer your questions or talk to you about your new prescription.

The Health Depot Pharmacy also gives patients the option of having their prescription packaged in a daily dose pack instead of traditional vials free of charge. Daily Dose Packs are single-dose strip-packaging, in which your medications are sorted into convenient packets with the date and time of when to take them. You also have the option of including over the counter items to your daily dose packs such as vitamins and other supplements. The packs are contained in a dispensing box storing a roll of packs that you remove as you need your dose. Individual packets can easily be taken along with you when you are out and about, without having to take multiple medication bottles with you.


2. The Karie - Automatic Medication Dispenser  

The Daily Dose Packs can be pre-loaded into the Karie, an automatic medication dispenser that can help patients who often forget to take their medications and need a gentle reminder. When it’s time for you to take your medication, Karie will light up and produce a calming chime. Simply push a button and your medication dose is delivered, in a pre-opened pouch. Karie also has a mobile application that can send a notification to your family member or caregiver if you missed a dose. For more information, please visit this link

3. Health Store 

The Health Depot Pharmacy has an online store that has more than 15,000 health products including but not limited to, over the counter medications, health essentials (hand sanitizer, face masks, sunscreen, etc), beauty products, medical supplies (suction tubing kits, Ostomy, etc),  mobility equipment (crutches, wheelchairs, etc) and much more. Customers can shop online and have their purchases delivered straight to their doorstep, with free delivery anywhere in Ontario when shipped with their prescriptions or on all orders of $50 or more. The Health Depot Pharmacy is now expanding and offering to ship across Canada for products purchased from the health store with free shipping for purchases over $100.  

4. Great Team 

Aside from the many services that the Health Depot Pharmacy can offer, I want to take this opportunity to introduce the great team I work with. Andy and Agata Donald built a great team culture by forming a team who are eager to support one another and help each other grow to better support our patients.

Andy Donald - CEO of the Health Depot Pharmacy and a Certified Geriatric Pharmacist. Andy has a vision to revolutionize the profession using new and innovative technology to provide patients with better care. Andy has always been an advocate for pharmacy and patient care, with no doubt he's also an exceptional mentor and a great leader.

Agata Donald - Owner of Health Depot Pharmacy and a Certified Geriatric Pharmacist with more than 10 years of experience in the field. As a Pharmacy Student, I aspire to become half the woman she is today, an excellent Pharmacist, great leader, and a loving mother.

June Lee - A Certified Geriatric Pharmacist, Diabetes Educator, and Respiratory Educator. June has been continuously providing exceptional clinical services to the community.

Sarah Kelly - A Registered Pharmacy Technician with over 20 years of pharmacy experience. Sarah is dedicated to providing the utmost in patient care and has been a great mentor since I joined. Did I forget to mention she has a contagious smile?

Jamie West - Customer Service Administrator. Jamie will be your initial contact at the Health Depot Pharmacy, she has exceptional communication and customer service skills. We share the same office space and I'm not lying when I say I take notes while she speaks to clients. I mean how can someone be that good? Jamie is definitely that good! Also, no she's not related to Kanye West.

Andrew Livingston - Human Resource and Operations. Have you heard of the guy who knows it all? That is Andrew Livingston, a great problem solver who has a solution for everything. Andrew has over 10 years of extensive experience in Community Pharmacy and Customer Service, and excels in providing the highest level of care to all patients and customers.

Edward Chang - Web designer and Developer. Being proficient in Java, and Javascript, Edward specializes in frontend development and UI/UX. His favourite stack for development is the MERN stack.

So now that you know a little bit more about what an online pharmacy can offer, our next blog will dwell on how you can check if an online pharmacy outlet is certified and safe, stay tuned!

For now, I'm going to leave you with this short video to summarize the services offered by The Health Depot Pharmacy.
In the meantime,
Stay Healthy, Stay Home.

Tahani Dakkak
BSc, MMASc, PharmD ‘23


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