Last February, Carolyne Eagan’s mother was suddenly stricken with an excruciatingly painful condition called trigeminal neuralgia, which prevented her from eating, talking or drinking without triggering a flare of pain in her head.

Eagan gathered up her mom’s medications and got into the ambulance with her, feeling increasingly distressed as she wasn’t able to answer the questions paramedics were asking her about what drugs her mother used and how frequently.

“However, happy story: when I got to the hospital, I remembered the [PocketPills] app. I remembered I could pull up all of her medications, all of the details [using the caregiver feature] and the hospital team was able to respond,” said Eagan, regional director of business development for PocketPills, during Benefits Canada’s 2021 Tech Insights: Spring Edition conference in April. “I could breathe a sigh of relief knowing my mom had the right information at the right time.”

Read: Green Shield Canada, PocketPills partner on virtual pharmacy access

PocketPills is Canada’s first digital pharmacy. The service, which is available through an app and website, allows members to transfer their prescription from their home pharmacy to the service, receive a welcome call to review their medications and have them delivered for free. They can also use the service to check medication prices online, schedule refills and renewals. The service delivers all prescription medications, including cold chain and specialty drugs. While some medications do arrive in regular prescription vials, the majority come in “pocket packs” that are pre-sorted by the date and time they need to be taken and are easy to open.

Members can chat with a pharmacist seven days a week via text, call or email, which Eagan pointed out can be particularly helpful for those who don’t have a family doctor and need to be prescribed a new medication. In some locations, PocketPills even has a doctor on staff who can consult with members.

“We’re here for you [and] we’re able to talk about medication and health and disease management,” she said.

During the coronavirus pandemic, PocketPills membership surged, with the company onboarding more than 1,000 group benefits plans covering more than 200,000 members. “We didn’t skip a beat and were able to transfer [new members’] medications and get them arranged for their first delivery,” said Eagan. “Despite the large volumes I mentioned, our time service has been amazing.”

Read: How to support working caregivers

She also pointed to the caregiver feature, which allows a member to access the account of a family member such as a child, parent or grandparent. “Not everyone has a 911 story [like me], but we all have someone we want to take care of. Whether it’s someone next door or two provinces away, you can simply arrange for free delivery.”

PocketPills offers medication management and adherence tools through its app and website to ensure users have the right medication at the right time and never miss a dose. The app’s medication reminder feature allows users to record when they’ve taken their dose, just like tracking their diet or exercise habits.

Plan sponsors benefit from PocketPills lower drug pricing for group benefits accounts, which saves their bottom line between 10 and 15 per cent, according to Eagan, who noted they can choose to keep this saving or pass it onto their members.

What does the future for digital pharmacies look like? Eagan said the company has a “passion and vision” to nudge members when they take a new prescription to connect them with elements of their group plan that could aid in their diagnosis, such as an employee assistance program, and provide proactive health coaching.

“We’ve got the technology and the data to mine through and help people manage their medication and look at proactive solutions that impact not only preventative cases for disability but ongoing ones.”

Read more articles from the 2021 Tech Insights: Spring Edition conference.