Telus Health has begun rolling out a new online pharmacy service for Canadians, adding to its existing network of healthcare centres and virtual care services.
The company’s Virtual Pharmacy mobile app represents Telus Health’s latest move into the online healthcare space. Jill Yetman, senior communications manager at Telus, told BetaKit that the offering is “a critical component in the company’s digital health ecosystem.”
The offering is “a critical component in the company’s digital health ecosystem.”
Telus Health’s new service puts the firm into competition with Canadian tech startups like Maple and Felix Health.
Telus is also, notably, an investor in digital pharmacy startup PocketPills, for which Telus Ventures led an all-equity, $30 million round in March.
“As a pharmacist myself, I understand the importance of being able to speak with an expert when it comes to your health, whether to ask questions about medications or other matters,” said Jason Kennedy, general manager of virtual pharmacy at Telus Health. “As the role of the pharmacist evolves in Canada, so too must the tools used to access health services.”
Telus Health, the Montréal-based health division of Canadian telecommunications giant Telus, offers a variety of virtual care solutions, including at-home monitoring for seniors and an electronic medical record platform. Many of Telus Health’s virtual care offerings were built through its acquisitions of healthtech companies like Montréal-based EQ Care, the Canadian operations of Nightingale, Toronto-based Akira Health, and Québec’s ZRx Prescriber, a web-based prescription technology firm.
In 2021, Telus Health quietly acquired Alliance Pharmacy Group, a service that provides online prescription refills and direct-to-consumer medication shipping used by thousands of people across Canada, including “top employers.” The company’s new digital pharmacy app is the product of the previously unannounced acquisition.
Yetman said that Telus is now offering “an enhanced version of the service” through its Virtual Pharmacy offering, which is currently available by appointment – with plans to offer one-on-one virtual consultations with pharmacists that the spokesperson claims differentiates it from other players in the online pharmacy space.
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Telus Health’s free Virtual Pharmacy app gives iOS and Android users unlimited access to one-on-one video and phone consultations with pharmacists, allows Canadians to set up automatic refill reminders, and ships medications directly to patients. The app is now available in English in all Canadian provinces excluding Québec, and Telus Health plans to roll out the French version of the app “in the coming months.”
The virtual pharmacy space has grown amid rising demand for digital health solutions during COVID-19, benefiting Canadian startups like Surrey-based PocketPills and Toronto-based Felix Health, which offer digital prescription fulfillment services.
Amid this environment, American online pharmacy companies like Capsule and Truepill have closed major funding rounds, while Toronto-based Locke Bio has emerged as a platform designed to serve direct-to-consumer digital health and pharmaceutical brands.
In addition to these startups, the list of companies competing to capture a slice of the online pharmacy market also includes e-commerce giants like Amazon and pharmacy retailers like Rexall.
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Telus Health touts its offering as a means of addressing the problem of medication non-adherence, the practice of not taking medications as directed.
Sonya Lockyer, vice president of pharmacy at Telus Health, claimed that failing to follow medication instructions can negatively impact patient health and cost Canada’s healthcare systems “billions of dollars in unnecessary acute care interventions.”
According to a recent survey conducted by Leger on behalf of Telus Health, one-third of Canadians neglected to pick up their prescription medications on time in the past year. The majority of respondents attributed this to their busy lifestyles.
“As people’s lives continue to get busier, we need to focus on providing simple and convenient solutions that allow people to better manage their health and the health of their families,” said Lockyer.
Feature image courtesy of Telus Health