In recent months, Canadians have seen an increase in innovative technologies as consumer demands shift amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
During a time when unexpected circumstances beyond our control can change at any moment, such as the effects of the coronavirus, the need for access to virtual care has never been greater.
This current state of affairs is not what serial entrepreneur Ali Reyhany anticipated when design began two years ago on a service tailored to the somewhat urgent needs of today. Together with Karim Nassar, a computer engineer and MBA, he created an all-encompassing digital pharmacy: Mednow.ca.
Since launching in the Toronto market in June and securing $6.5 million in seed funding, the platform has brought a unique and disruptive approach to virtual health care, simplifying the pharmacy routine for Canadians from coast to coast.
Having launched the company’s first two brick and mortar locations in Toronto (Bloor Street) and Vancouver (Main Street) this fall, Mednow.ca is securing its presence within Canada’s leading health-tech hub, embracing an all-encompassing consumer approach.
Mednow.ca works by combining convenience with quick medical delivery for patients of all ages and medical backgrounds. Nassar says it can be thought of as your “one-stop-shop virtual health care platform” — and it’s designed to be accessible for all.
By signing up, patients can access a network of pharmacies to receive customized care, arrange their prescription refills and orders online, get free and fast delivery of medications and pharmacy products, and book virtual appointments with physicians via the platform’s telemedicine partners.
There are no membership fees for patients using Mednow.ca, and medication costs are similar to that of your current pharmacy, says Reyhany. Before dispensing medication, the platform performs a complimentary price investigation to reduce out-of-pocket medication costs for patients.
“We want to provide you with answers and solutions that work around your schedule and lifestyle, so you can continue spending time doing the other things in your life that matter most,” notes Reyhany. “We feel technology can really make a difference in the health of Canadians, and it is currently very underutilized in our health care system.”
In addition to the aforementioned services, Mednow.ca offers a PillSmart system to make managing medications and supplements easy (using pouches sorted by date and time). Its personal healthcare companion, Karie, acts as a home appliance that organizes and dispenses medication.
“With the expertise and our network of trusted experts, we understood the potential impact we could make through developing a comprehensive, streamlined online platform for accessing medical services,” Reyhany tells Daily Hive.
Both co-founders of Mednow.ca bring diverse work experience in the healthcare sector to the table, which has been integral to getting the digital pharmacy up and running.
Nassar’s experience includes senior roles in strategy at McKesson Corporation, the world’s largest drug wholesaler; developing the logistics network of Vital Air in Western Canada, a home oxygen delivery company; and lastly as head of digital strategy at Care Health. Nassar moved naturally into the CEO role of Mednow.ca, ensuring the company meets its goals of using technology and delivery to improve the patient experience.
Reyhany is the CEO of Care Pharmacies. Since acquiring his first pharmacy three months after graduating from the University of Toronto, he has gone on to operate and have an interest in more than 60 healthcare operations across Canada. He also volunteers his time in building pharmacies for remote and isolated First Nations communities.
The co-founders note that launching during the pandemic resulted in unique challenges. “Mednow’s internal operations and developments moved at a slower pace in adherence to COVID-19 restrictions and the availability we had to team members, which translated into a slower moving growth cycle,” Nassar explains.
Despite the setbacks, Nassar says customers reached out to express their gratitude for having an option to receive pharmacy essentials without leaving their home, including ordering face masks and personal protective equipment (PPE).
By offering an alternative to the traditional pharmacy ecosystem with a patient-centric approach, Mednow.ca quickly expanded across Ontario, arriving here in Vancouver, with plans to continue expansion province-wide and eventually to Alberta, Quebec, and Nova Scotia.
The company chose Vancouver as the destination for its headquarters because the city is a hub for health and technology innovation (it’s also home to half of Mednow.ca’s board of directors).
Dawei Ji, a registered pharmacist and the company’s new Director of Pharmacy for Western Canada, will be overseeing growth and development forecast goals. He previously served as Senior Manager of Pharmacy Operations for Medisystem and a Pharmacy Manager at Shoppers Drug Mart.
“I am excited to be joining the Mednow team at such an opportune time where virtual care and pharmacy delivery offerings are in high demand,” says Ji.
Nassar notes, “Our plan is to continue to make waves within the telehealth and healthcare domain. This is an ever-changing industry, particularly with the pandemic shifting the pharmaceutical practice.”
He continues, “It is in our best interest to remain as vigilant as possible and continue adapting to the changes the country is facing with this as they appear.”