The middle of a global pandemic might not have been the most ideal time to open up a pharmacy, but the chaos and uncertainty wrought by COVID-19 had an easily-found silver lining for local entrepreneurs: the chance to underscore the important role a pharmacy plays in your overall health.
Taking a holistic approach to wellness is the driving force of Wellness Clinical Pharmacy, which recently opened on Yonge Street, just north of Aurora Heights Boulevard.
Opened by three recent graduates of the University of Toronto Thomas Huang, Jeffrey Tso, and Kai Ye, it was founded on the simple principle of “providing better care” – and by that, they mean taking their time with the individual.
“One of the challenges right now in getting pharmacy services is more and more it is becoming a very fast service; you go in, you get your prescriptions and get out,” says Tso. “We have been feeling that loss of communication and we wanted to bring that personal connection back that it is not just about your medications, but everything health-related. Your pharmacy will become your hub.”
COVID-19 has thrown Wellness Clinical Pharmacy an operational curve ball, but they have been able to easily adapt their services to the new normal. One of 11 pharmacies that have been distributing vaccines, they have seen a steady stream of new customers come in not only for their shot but to learn what Wellness Pharmacy is all about.
“We want to ensure everyone with our pharmacy is being taken care of, above and beyond what a normal pharmacy offers, and I believe that is what makes us kind of special,” says Tso. “We’re starting small, all the operators here are pharmacists and owners, and we really take the time, care and attention to spend with each and every client. All pharmacies are supposed to provide really stellar clinical services, but one of the things we really do provide that is different is we take the time to provide you with a service.
“Often you just get your medications, but not often will you have the opportunity to have an actual appointment and sit down with your pharmacist. We take our time to look at [the different medications you’re already taking], heart monitoring, diabetes health. Above and beyond just medications, we take a look at lifestyle choices because at the end of the day medications aren’t the end of the story. There’s so much more to the picture than just medication and that is where ‘wellness’ fits in. We want to be able to provide better care, which looks at the patient from a holistic perspective.”
That holistic approach includes sitting down with a client to make sure they are maximizing their drug coverage as well as being front-of-the-line with resources related to COVID-19. In addition to offering vaccines, they offer private testing for the virus, including rapid testing, which can provide a confirmation of positive or negative within 15 minutes.
This service, says Tso, has given clients invaluable piece of mind knowing they are not likely to be carrying home the virus after a potential exposure.
Antibody testing is also on the menu of services, as are longer hours to ensure everyone who has a vaccine appointment can do so safely and have the requisite time on site to make sure there are no adverse affects from their shot.
“We find the service of being able to provide a comfortable, clean experience where you have the time to ask your questions alleviates everyone’s anxiety,” says Tso. “If you know what to expect the next day, you feel a lot better sleeping at night and hopefully the emergency rooms aren’t as filled with people running in and out with side effects [from the vaccine] because they know those are expected side-effects.
“COVID has been a challenge for everyone. We have had calls all the way from Sutton regarding some of our services because, sadly, there are resources out there but everything is siloed. Even for health care practitioners ourselves, sometimes it is challenging to navigate the landscape. Where do I get help? Who do I get help from? Am I eligible? What happens to our medications if we have no refills? We find ourselves every day to be able to answer more and more of those questions. As a smaller pharmacy, we help people find those answers. It may not be the pharmacy, but what we can say is ‘rest assured we will lead you in the right direction’ and then you have a good touch point – call back in, check with us, and we’ll see what we can do for you.”
In a year from now, Wellness Clinical Pharmacy hopes to keep building on their mandate and “push health care even further” by adding family doctors and other services at their location.
Wellness Clinical Pharmacy is located at 15450 Yonge Street, Unit 2 – 3.
Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran