Posted: July 3, 2018

Andrea Richards is giving patients a big hand in navigating coverage for drugs they need for care.

The costs of many drugs provided for in-hospital care are covered. When patients leave the hospital, they may have to use extended benefits or pay for medications that are part of their care.

A portrait of medication reimbursement specialist Andrea Richards

That’s where Andrea comes in. She’s the medication reimbursement specialist in GRH’s Health Care Centre Pharmacy (opens in a new tab). The hospital owns and operates the retail pharmacy, with net revenue supporting GRH care programs.

Andrea works with patients to navigate the often complex network of drug programs. Her work helps patients get better access to the medications they need at a lower out-of-pocket cost.

How did you become involved in pharmacy care?

I took a program right out of high school that allowed me to work in a pharmacy and learn the ins and outs of the job. I liked it so much I went to Niagara College and took the pharmacy technician program.

The role of a technician has really evolved in the past five years. Along with my colleagues we have upgraded our education and are now regulated technicians.

What brought you to Grand River Hospital and the Health Care Centre Pharmacy?

I came to work at Health Care Centre Pharmacy in 2013 on a contract basis to fill a maternity leave. After a year and a half I was offered a full-time position.

Health Care Centre Pharmacy is a unique retail pharmacy that offers services not found at your typical community pharmacy. I love the fast pace and daily challenges that come with this.

How did you become the medication reimbursement specialist?

I have helped the drug access facilitator in our oncology program occasionally and really enjoyed the challenge. So when the medication reimbursement specialist position was created, I jumped at the opportunity to apply.

I see the amazing work that the drug access facilitator is able to do for oncology patients. I hope that I can do the same for other patients in the hospital and community.

What are some of the ways you help patients save money on prescriptions?

Some of the ways we can help people is by working closely with different patient support programs, enrolling them in the Trillium Drug Program, or by investigating and requesting approval of special medications with private insurance if applicable. 

How do patients react when you’ve helped them reduce medication costs?

Patients are often overwhelmed and upset with whatever diagnosis they have received so the last thing they want to deal with is how they are going to afford something. They are often grateful that I can help liaise between programs or insurance companies to ease their minds about the financial component. 

How can patients get in touch with you?

I can be found in the retail pharmacy on the third floor by Tim Hortons or by calling 519-749-4300 extension 5621.

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