Puneet Mahajan arrived on July 1st, 2008, having emigrated from India. “Maybe it’s a coincidence,” says Puneet, “but Canada Day is always a special day for me.”
Puneet completed his studies at the University of Toronto’s Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy. He was attending a conference where he met his future fiancé Anjala née Bhalla, in 2010.Anjala had graduated from U of T’s pharmacy program the year before. Born in Toronto, she had grown up in Vaughn.
“We just clicked first time, you know our chemistry matched,” says Puneet. “We were talking about pharmacy, how we wanted to serve the public, and then we realized that our families knew each other.”
Puneet and Anjala were well established in their careers as pharmacists at corporate franchises when they were married in 2011. Their son Karn is currently in pre-school.
I.D.A. LOTUS PHARMACY
Back in India Puneet had graduated from the University of Mumbai with an MBA in marketing and finance. “I learned how to manage people, how to do risk management, how to do the financials,” says Puneet. “And I was inspired to want to own my own business.”
Puneet and Anjala set up shop in Burlington’s Millcroft neighbourhood at 2025 William O’Connell Boulevard, with the grand opening in the Summer of 2017.
They named their pharmacy after the lotus flower, a sacred plant in many cultures which is imbued with beauty, elegance, grace, and purity, and known from ancient times to have medicinal properties.
Puneet and Anjala opened their second Burlington pharmacy location in 2018, at the Village of Tansley Woods retirement home and long-term care at 4100 Upper Middle Road, with convenient public access to the pharmacy.
CONNECTING THE DOTS
Aligning their neighbourhood pharmacies with I.D.A., they have joinined a supportive network of one thousand independent pharmacies from coast to coast.
I.D.A. pharmacies have been providing patient care since 1932, when the Independent Druggists’ Alliance was first established in Canada.
When patients come to the pharmacy, the initial step is the patient assessment. Next is the care plan, and finally the follow-up.
“What really drives me is the patient care,” says Puneet, “Where you can really get to know the person and establish that collaborative relationship.”
Depending on patient requirements, the pharmacists may refer their patients to a variety of health care professionals such as primary care physician, nurse practitioner, psychologist, RMT, physiotherapist, kinesiologist, acupuncturist, chiropractor, or podiatrist.
“The patients are very engaged,” says Anjala. “which helps us to approach healthcare from a holistic perspective. The medications may be a few pieces of the puzzle, but other pieces can include lifestyle changes such as stress reduction, socialization, healthy eating, and exercise.”
EXPANDED SCOPE OF PRACTICE
While pharmacists like Puneet and Anjala are uniquely positioned to assess whether desired drug therapy outcomes are being achieved, they see their role evolving as they are spend less time in the traditional role of dispensing medications, and more time on patient care activities.
With the passing of Bill 179, Puneet and Anjala have seized the opportunity to more fully apply their skills and knowledge.
They may administer travel and other select vaccines, including for influenza and 13 other vaccine-preventable disease, and prescribe drugs for smoking/ tobacco cessation.
Puneet and Anjala may adapt and manage drug therapy including altering other prescriber’s prescriptions changing drug dosage, formulation, and regimen, and renew or extend prescriptions for continuity of care.
Another service improvement at I.D.A. Lotus Pharmacy involves employing regulated pharmacy technicians on the team.
While currently only Alberta has embraced all of the 16 approved expansions to pharmacist scope of practice, more than half of them have yet to be implemented in Ontario.
With prescriptive authority for minor ailments currently pending, in the future Ontario pharmacists may look forward to further prescriptive and injection authorities, along with the ability to order and interpret lab tests.
“We are moving from multi-disciplinary to intra-collaborative practice which means working alongside each other as healthcare clinicians,” says Anjala, “to provide optimal care for the patients in this most critical time as the baby boomers are aging and the population’s healthcare needs will be rising.”
THE FUTURE OF PHARMACY
The classic care model involves the patient stopping by to speak with the pharmacist when dropping off prescriptions or seeking over-the-counter remedies. This model will continue in conjunction with the newer appointment-based model.
“As practitioners at the forefront, our patients can always come and see us anytime,” says Anjala. “Moving forward we are also being more proactive, encouraging patients to book times to sit down with us to discuss their care.”
Technology is transforming our daily lives, including our health care. But some things never change.
“Information technology is allowing us as individuals to get our tasks done more efficiently,” says Anjala, “however I feel that it will never be able to replace the relationships that we form with one another and that ongoing one-on-one human communication.”
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