The word “unprecedented” has dominated the 2020 lexicon. For patients and health care professionals alike, 2020 was a year of immense challenge, innovation and resilience. 2020 witnessed the rapid deployment and adoption of virtual care tools to help keep Canadians safe during this global health crisis. From new partnerships with major retailers like Rexall and Shoppers Drug Mart, to supporting the adoption of virtual care, to new educational initiatives, the importance of PrescribeIT’s role as a national e-prescribing service has never been clearer.
2020 began with positive news for PrescribeIT®. In January, we launched in Newfoundland and Labrador. Dr. Hamdi Magrabi and Dr. Logendraj Selvarajah in the community of Bonavista were the first prescribers in the province to use PrescribeIT®, with the first electronic prescriptions received by Jason Ryan, pharmacist at the Bonavista pharmacy. With this launch, Newfoundland and Labrador joined New Brunswick, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta in utilizing PrescribeIT®; agreements are in place with six other jurisdictions.
“Taking a patient-first approach, e-prescribing is a major step that will advance patient safety, improve the coordination of care and impact health outcomes.”
– Stephen Clark, President and CEO, Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Health Information
Virtual Care and COVID-19
On March 11, 2020, the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic, and Canadian health care delivery changed almost overnight. To slow the virus’s transmission, physical distancing measures were implemented, with many providers and patients turning to virtual care tools as a means to keep Canadians safe. The rapid uptake in virtual care had significant implications for PrescribeIT®.
In response to feedback from physicians and pharmacists managing patient consultations virtually, PrescribeIT® initiated an EMR-Virtual Care Investment Program in mid-April. This initiative provided participating EMR vendors with financial support to rapidly integrate or scale existing virtual care technologies. While COVID-19 catalyzed this work, it was an opportunity to see past investments into digital health and e-prescribing come to fruition; PrescribeIT’s past successes in this sphere helped health professionals quickly pivot during a time of crisis.
Indeed, early adopters of PrescribeIT® reported that their prior experience with e-prescribing had helped them seamlessly transition to a “virtual-first” model of care following the pandemic’s onset. By integrating digital health tools like e-prescribing and virtual visits, prescribers and pharmacists have been able to help Canadians receive the care they need, while avoiding in-person visits where appropriate.
2020 brought rapid change to Canada’s health system, with more Canadians than ever adopting a “virtual first” approach to care delivery. In this new context, e-prescribing has taken increasingly important role in the modern clinician’s toolkit, as reflected in the following performance statistics. Since January 2020:
“A lot of the ways of working that we’re getting used to right now will continue post-COVID. It gives us an excuse to really improve our technology and e-services. With PrescribeIT® already integrated into our workflow, it made transitioning to a virtual office a lot easier.”
– Dr. Sherine Ibrahim, family physician, Legacy Medical Clinic (Lethbridge, AB)
Safe Prescribing Practices
As the pandemic continues and isolation and mental health concerns increase, this continuity of care has proved particularly important for those patients receiving prescriptions for narcotics. This year, opioid-related overdoses and deaths reached record rates across the country; Ontario alone reported a 25 per cent increase in opioid-related deaths as of October 2020.
With the additional challenges imposed by COVID-19, safe prescribing and medication management practices are essential. By eliminating the risk of forged or diverted prescriptions, and enabling prescribers to prescribe smaller quantities of medication, PrescribeIT® continues to support Canadians and the health system as they navigate this second health crisis.
“Now, more than ever, there is an urgent need to prioritize patient safety and reduce stigma by modernizing the prescription process to make paper prescriptions a thing of the past, allowing prescribers, patients and pharmacists to be part of the same conversation.”
– Lynn Cooper, Patient and Family Partner, “Relief needed: Chronic pain is a complex disease and should be treated as such,” The Province.
We were also pleased to embark upon several key new partnerships this year. Agreements with On-Pharm United, PharmaChoice Canada and Pharmacy Brands Canada were established. In July, we announced that PrescribeIT® would become available in more than 250 Rexall pharmacies across Canada; an agreement with Loblaw Companies Limited followed in August. As a first step in this latter initiative, Shoppers Drug Mart and Loblaw are now live with PrescribeIT® in Alberta and New Brunswick, with plans to roll out in additional jurisdictions in the new year. In addition to Rexall and Loblaw, we welcomed several new vendors to PrescribeIT® this year. New EMR vendor partners included:
- Mustimuhw Information Solutions®
- MYLE by MEDFAR
- OMNIMED by OMNI-MED.COM INC.
- AWARE MD
- WELL Health
New PMS vendor partners included Nexxsys and Reflex Rx, both divisions of McKesson Canada. With the addition of these technology vendors, PrescribeIT® now has agreements with 17 EMR solutions and seven PMS solutions.
These new partnerships represented an opportunity for growth — and reflection. An end-to-end review of the e-renewal process was completed by the PrescribeIT® Product Excellence Team and the Workflow Excellence Committee this year. We listened to PrescribeIT® users (prescribers and pharmacists) and our vendor partners, to learn about their challenges and the ways in which we can better support the end-to-end e-renewal process through PrescribeIT®. Lessons learned have been complied into a Best Practice Guide to support EMR vendors in optimizing their systems to support e-prescribing workflows. Through improved clinical workflows, prescribers and pharmacists using PrescribeIT® will be better able to serve Canadians.
Outreach and Engagement
Our outreach and engagement also expanded significantly. Our “User Journey” video and blog series followed three PrescribeIT® users — a family physician, nurse practitioner and pharmacist — as they implemented PrescribeIT® into their practices. Similarly, the “Ask a Peer” initiative enabled health care professionals to have their questions answered by experts already using PrescribeIT®. By sharing their own experiences, these health care professionals are making it easier than ever for prescribers and pharmacists to connect and learn about e-prescribing.
“There’s no comparison between our [previous] workflow and what PrescribeIT® offers.”
Dr. Daniel Pepe, family physician, London Lambeth Family Medicine Clinic (London, ON)
Education continued as a key theme through several other 2020 initiatives. The PrescribeIT® Primer for prescribers and pharmacists contains online courses designed to help physicians, nurse practitioners, pharmacists and pharmacy technicians understand the fundamentals of e-prescribing.
While COVID-19 precluded in-person conferences, PrescribeIT® nevertheless put forth a strong presence at several virtual events, including the On-Pharm United Virtual Conference, the Alberta Pharmacists’ Association (RxA) Fall Virtual Professional Development Conference and the AQPP (Quebec Association of Pharmacy Owners) 2020 Annual Congress.
Looking ahead, we anticipate continued growth in 2021 in Alberta, Newfoundland and Labrador, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Ontario, launching in PEI and continuing our work with Quebec and British Columbia.
This year, e-prescribing has taken its place as an essential tool in the modern clinician’s toolkit. When Canadians needed to remain apart, services like PrescribeIT® have enabled them to stay together, helping clinicians to provide care despite immense challenges, and ensuring that Canadians can continue to access the medications they need. We trust that in 2021, innovation, collaboration and product excellence will continue to be a prescription for success.