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Travel Health Pharmasave Provides Excellent Patient Care

Travel Health Pharmasave in Assiniboine Receives Excellent Feedback from Patients

With the holidays right around the corner, many people are booking international vacations. Ryan Buffie, a travel health pharmacist in Winnipeg is helping people prepare for their trips by providing information on vaccinations and medication at his travel health clinic.

One patient who recently visited Ryan’s pharmacy stated, “Ryan was extremely professional and more than knowledgeable about the vaccinations that were needed for our upcoming vacation. Ryan worked with us diligently through e-mail to ensure he understood everything that we needed as we live five hours north of Winnipeg and it was a huge effort for us to attend the pharmacy. Once arriving there he took extra time (well after closing time!!) to make sure we understood all the risks and limitations of the vaccines. He even prepared a package with information about the areas we were visiting and general travel safety information. Ryan then sent a follow up e-mail to us with all the dates that were required for follow up doses”.

Ryan is the manager/ owner of Pharmasave Assiniboine and has received excellent feedback from people he serves. “His pharmacy is clean and organized and all the staff were pleasant to deal with. I only wish we lived closer as I would by-pass many pharmacies to deal with this one”. We set up an interview to learn more about Ryan’s clinic and the role of travel health pharmacists in Manitoba.

Q: Could you tell us a bit about yourself? Where you went to school, how long you’ve been a practicing pharmacist, and if you have always had an interest in travel health?

A: I graduated from the University of Manitoba in 2001, along with my business partner and lifelong friend, Kris. I have worked in community pharmacy since then, and have always loved travelling. My wife Jennifer and I have visited over 20 countries on 5 continents, and we have started to take our young children travelling as well. Before a trip in 2006 we visited a travel health clinic in Winnipeg to get some required vaccines. The travel physician’s passion for what he did sparked something in me. Once pharmacists became able to administer injections in Manitoba in 2014, I started to formulate a plan of how I could incorporate travel health into my practice. When we opened Assiniboine Pharmacy in 2015, we knew that travel health services would be in our future.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about the pharmacy scope of travel health in Manitoba right now?

A: Pharmacists in Manitoba are currently limited in providing travel health services on their own. A pharmacist wishing to conduct travel health consultations would need to collaborate with a practitioner who can prescribe the required vaccines and medications. This could involve contacting the patient’s family physician, sending them to a walk-in clinic with a list of required items, or finding a prescriber to be involved with the consultation service. The first two options are not always successful and can be inconvenient for the patient. The College of Pharmacists of Manitoba is working on a travel health prescribing framework for qualified pharmacists, but this has not yet come into effect.

Q: Can you tell us about your Pharmasave travel health clinic and what is unique about it?

A: Assiniboine Pharmacy is focused on helping patients. We want our patients to feel like they are at a small-town neighbourhood pharmacy within a large city. We strive to make meaningful relationships with our patients and help them be as healthy as possible.

We have partnered with a local physician to prescribe for our travel health consultations. He is involved in all our consultations. This allows required vaccinations to be administered, and medications to be prescribed and dispensed all during one appointment (unless follow up vaccination doses are required). This collaboration also expands the scope of our travel health offering, giving us access to information and services that may not otherwise be available to pharmacists such as, patient lab tests, results, the full range of publicly funded vaccinations, and follow-up physician care as required.

What makes us unique is that we are the first pharmacist-led travel health consultation service in the city of Winnipeg. We are also the only pharmacist-led Health Canada certified Yellow Fever Vaccination Centre in Winnipeg. Our physician collaboration model is also the first of its kind in Manitoba that we are aware of.

Q: Why do you think it is important for Pharmacists to be trained in travel health?

A: Pharmacists are accessible, knowledgeable, and can be certified to administer vaccinations. These qualities lend themselves to a practice in travel health. Also, in many areas of the country, there is a shortage of qualified travel health services. Improving patient access to travel health services should help Canadians return from their travels healthy. This in turn should reduce hospital and physician visits, and time missed from work. As international travel increases, the demand for travel health services will increase as well.

Q: What kind of training do pharmacists need to be certified in travel health?

A: Each province has its own regulations around what pharmacists can administer and prescribe. In Manitoba, pharmacists are currently unable to prescribe any travel health medications, but can administer any vaccine pursuant to a prescription. We hope that this will change in the coming years, and that qualified pharmacists will be able prescribe vaccinations and medications for travel health.

Providing a comprehensive travel health service, however, requires more than just prescribing and administering vaccinations. There is a vast amount of knowledge required to ensure that patients are adequately prepared to visit the myriad destinations around the world. Different countries have different health risks, and some countries may require proof of certain vaccinations upon arrival or departure. On top of this, health risks in various countries change over time. It is up to the travel health practitioner to be aware of all this information and ensure they stay up to date with changing health risks. Frankly, pharmacists should not aspire to dabble in travel health; it is a dynamic field that requires daily learning. Obtaining a Certificate in Travel Health (CTH) from the International Society of Travel Medicine (ISTM) is a good starting point.

Q: You’ve received excellent feedback from patients about you and your clinic, why do you think this is?

A: Firstly, I think my passion for travel helps. I like to find out why people have chosen various destinations, and am always excited when I can share firsthand knowledge of the country to which they are going. Secondly, I feel that we provide a comprehensive service. At our pharmacy, we have all the potentially required vaccines and medications in stock as well as bug sprays, sunscreens, mosquito nets etc. so patients can leave their appointment without having to go somewhere else. Thirdly, I take a lot of time with patients to ensure they understand the health risks and benefits of their destination, and financial aspects of their vaccinations and/or medications. I also ensure that I educate patients about preventative measures unrelated to medications and vaccines. This is probably the most important part of the consultation since no medications or vaccinations are 100% effective. I leave plenty of time between appointments so that I never need to rush someone out the door – patients have as much time with me as they want to have all their questions answered. And finally, I think I do a pretty good injection!

Ryan Buffie is the manager/ owner of Pharmasave Assiniboine and we thank him for taking the time to do this interview, and the excellent patient care he provides to patients at his travel health clinic.


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