Posted on February 11, 2020 by Katie Bryski
According to a recent study, nearly nine in 10 Canadians consult the internet for health information. Unfortunately, “Dr. Google” isn’t always a trustworthy source. False and misleading information can put people at risk, sometimes with far-reaching consequences.
For that reason, Granby, Quebec pharmacist Alexandre Chagnon launched Ask Your Pharmacist / Question Pour Un Pharmacien in 2015. This free online service brings pharmacists’ expertise to Canadians’ fingertips. People can browse previous discussions to see if their question has been answered before (all identifying information is removed). If not, they can pose their own. Within 24 hours, they’ll receive an email notification directing them to an online chat with a responding pharmacist in their neighbourhood.
During the chat, the patient’s identifying information is removed. When the question is answered and the chat complete, the pharmacist may choose to leave the response “private,” or edit it for further privacy and make it available for others to view.
Though algorithms generally match users with pharmacists in their geographic vicinity, Ask Your Pharmacist can help people far from their usual care providers. An article in Le Soleil describes how Chagnon assisted a Canadian woman vacationing in the Dominican Republic. When she developed a shingles rash near her eye, she reached out to Ask Your Pharmacist to enquire about treatment. Chagnon’s timely advice prevented permanent vision loss.
A 2018 study examined the benefits of Ask Your Pharmacist’s services. The survey revealed that 89 per cent of respondents would be more motivated to consult pharmacists for medical advice in the future; 88 per cent trusted their pharmacist more after their experience on the site. There are benefits to the health system, too. Thirty-seven per cent of respondents avoided a visit to their family doctor and two per cent skipped a trip to the emergency department.
Chagnon muses about the possibility of other health professionals offering similar services, facilitating interprofessional collaboration, interdisciplinary sharing of expertise, and better health outcomes for patients.
How could these online services fit into your health care journey? What other initiatives can transform health care in Canada? The ACCESS 2022 movement is bringing Canadians together to imagine a new day in health care. Learn more at access2022.ca and join the movement.
 Chagnon, A, Vandesrasier, A. Un service Internet de téléconsultation offert par des pharmaciens: l’influence sur les représentations et les intentions comportementales des patients. Pharmactuel (2018). [Online] https://pharmactuel.com/index.php/pharmactuel/article/view/1217/1054
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Katie Bryski serves as Content Administrator for Canada Health Infoway. With nearly ten years of podcasting experience, she also produces Infoway’s podcast, the Digital Health InfoCast. She is particularly interested in how digital health relates to intersectionality.