Free healthcare advice to Canadian remote areas, all thanks to the pocket pills

In a country as vast as Canada – with many remote communities in the less populated areas – access to healthcare is a major issue for many regions.

Harj Samra, who graduated as a pharmacist from UBC in 2005, before going on to be the co-founder of Pocket Pills, a pharmaceutical distribution company based out of Surrey, BC, spoke with and said the situation is dire for smaller communities.

“In rural access areas – even in a small town – you might have one or two medical clinics and those might have a few physicians. But the wait times to see that physician can be three weeks to four weeks. Sometimes pharmacies don’t exist. So a patient has to go 45 minutes or an hour to get to the places to get their prescriptions filled. Some of these individuals don’t have an opportunity to communicate with a pharmacist,” said Samra. “So we’ve been really focused on bringing the pharmacy to your doorstep in a sense, regardless of where you’re at.”

One such remote community, Cat Lake First Nation, recently declared a state of emergency due to healthcare issues stemming from poor housing conditions and a mold epidemic. These issues were exasperated by the lack of healthcare services available to them. The community has only one healthcare centre; a nursing station staffed by three nurses.

According to Statistics Canada, 29 per cent of Canadians have troubles accessing healthcare services, with the most common reasons being difficulty contacting healthcare professionals, an inability to access accurate information, and difficulties booking appointments.

One of the main causes of the lack of healthcare access is a shortage of healthcare professionals.

Starting in June, Pocket Pills will not only be providing free delivery of pharmaceuticals (a service they already provide), but also free consultations with licensed pharmacists through its online portal (website or app), by phone call, and by text, as a means of filling the gap of access to healthcare professionals.