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St. Michael’s Emergency Department prescribes convenience with new pharmacy dispensing kiosk

Toronto, November 26, 2015

By Kendra Stephenson

A patient speaks with an Ontario certified pharmacist via video call
A patient speaks with an Ontario certified pharmacist via video call during a NuVision Health Pharmacy demonstration in the Emergency Department. (Photo by Yuri Markarov)

Picture this: it’s two in the morning and a patient has finally been discharged from the Emergency Department, prescription in hand, knowing they will soon feel better – after getting to a pharmacy. If it’s late at night or early morning (outside of regular pharmacy hours) they’d be out of luck: until now.

Prescriptions can now be filled 24-7 at St. Michael’s new pharmacy dispensing kiosk in the Emergency Department waiting area. Although dispensing machines are not new technology, the NuVision Health Pharmacy is the first of its kind in a downtown Toronto hospital.

The other kiosk locations in Ontario are Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial, NuVision’s headquarters in Mississauga and a future site at Newmarket’s Southlake Hospital.

Despite its futuristic look, the vending machine-like pharmacy is as simple to use as an ATM and still provides a face-to-face interaction with an Ontario certified pharmacist. In three easy steps (scan, speak, collect), a patient can fill his or her prescription at any time of day or night. The entire process takes only about seven minutes.

“It’s a very convenient option, especially because we see many of our patients after-hours, when pharmacies aren’t always open,” said Dr. David MacKinnon, deputy chief of the Emergency Department. “We know that the extra step of going to a pharmacy contributes to higher rates of prescription drug non-compliance. With the machine, the pharmacy is on their way out and patients can start treatment immediately.”

The kiosk video-calls a pharmacist located at the company headquarters in Mississauga who helps patients scan their prescriptions, provides any additional information and discusses the medication. Once the process is complete, the machine deposits the prescribed medication and dosage in a double-sealed container. The kiosk accepts debit, credit, insurance plan or ODB cards directly. For safety and security, cash is not accepted.

   Did you know?
The NuVision Health Pharmacy can hold 650 different medications and dosages and is refilled every one to two weeks.

On top of convenience and potentially improving compliance, Dr. MacKinnon said the service is a safer option for people leaving the ED late at night, and could also be more cost-effective.

“The company operating the kiosk has matched their pharmacy and drug pricing with Shoppers Drug Mart,” said Dr. MacKinnon. “It’s stocked with generic-brand medications that are covered by most drug plans and is also cheaper for patients paying out-of-pocket.”

The kiosk has 650 slots holding various pre-packaged doses of antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and topical treatments, and is restocked every one to two weeks. Narcotics, including opioids, are not stocked in the machine for safety and regulatory.

The inventory is aligned with the LHIN’s guidelines and treatment recommendations, but the hospital has some control over the stocked medications based on needs and usage. As the guidelines change, the inventory can be adjusted to reflect current best practices.

Doctors in the emergency department also have access to a website linked to the machine’s current inventory.

“If I need to prescribe a certain medication to a patient, I can check to see if it’s available in real-time,” said Dr. MacKinnon. “With the kiosk, I can guarantee their medication is available, save them an extra trip and get them on their way home – all within seven minutes.”

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael's Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.