Despite the wealth of information on the New York Department of Health’s (DOH) website, folks unfamiliar with the state’s medical marijuana program may still be left wondering what the actual experience of becoming medical marijuana patient is like. We spoke to one of the state’s Registered Organizations (ROs) to learn more about what people can expect during the patient onboarding process.
Learning about the Program
Residents can call their local RO, even if they aren’t certified as patients yet, to get answers to questions about the medical marijuana program. “I get at least a dozen calls a day”, says Warren McReddie, PharmaCannis physician patient outreach specialist for New York. “People ask, ‘How do I go about getting a card, how do I register, how does this all work, it’s new to me?’ so I go over the process.”
This initial conversation is an opportunity for specialists like Warren to educate people about how simple the patient certification process is. “Usually I first ask if they’ve talk to their physician and how they feel about being registered,” Warren says. “Then I tell them to go on the website and view the step-by-step video.”
Warren informs callers that a video chat with HelloMD will put the patient in touch with a certified physician who determines whether the patient has a qualifying condition. “Once they qualify,” he says, “they’ll have the process of getting through the New York Department of Health.” Patients who qualify are issued a certification number and recommendation prescription by HelloMD, kicking off the next step of visiting the DOH website to submit their certification information.
“Once you complete the process, it’s about two weeks until you get a card,” adds Warren. “Then once you get a card, it allows you to come into our dispensaries and purchase the products recommended by the HelloMD doctor.”
Anna Poulin, manager of physician and patient outreach with PharmaCannis, emphasizes that the RO will keep supporting patients along the way, sending email updates to remind you of where you are in the process. “When a patient finishes their phone call and their Skype with HelloMD, we send an email telling them that they’re not done and the next step is to go onto New York DOH online to put in their information,” Anna explains.
“The second email is educational and talks about the dispensary experience,” she adds. “Then as it gets closer to them getting a card, we remind them to make an appointment once they get their card.”
Consultation & the First Visit to the Dispensary
Once a patient’s certified, it’s time to receive a consultation with a patient care representative—a process that’s the same whether conducted in person or over the phone, as Nelson Cuevas, PharmaCannis general manager and head pharmacist explains.
“We do a full patient assessment and intake; we get their medical history. I can access their certification securely and then I review that with them and we go over dosing. At that point, I answer any questions that they may have.”
Patients are encouraged to reach out if they have additional questions after their consultation ends. “We offer them the ability to call us any time with any questions,” says Nelson. “Our patient care representatives are fully trained; they answer most of the questions, and if they can’t, they’re referred back to me and I take care of it.”
This time with a patient care representative is more than about providing information; it also reassures patients who feel anxious about the unknown. “I’ve had several patients that are intimidated,” says Nelson, “but then we sit down, and we discuss the whole process with them, how safe it is, and we share some success stories which eases their anxiety.”
After You Leave the Dispensary
During their consultation, patients are shown the different forms of administration and learn about dosing. From there, they can purchase their medication. And the support continues long after they’ve gone home and started taking their medicine.
“Once they get their medication, we do follow up calls normally about three days after their initial visit just to make sure that everything is OK,” says Nelson. This is an opportunity for patients to comfortably address questions or concerns.
“We do a second follow-up call about 10 days after that to see if they’re happy with their medication, if they want to come back in, if they need a consultation, and if they want to set up some type of delivery or pre-order.”
Patients new to medical marijuana can rest assured that New York’s program is ready to serve them as quickly and efficiently as possible, and that ROs like PharmaCannis are there to help every step of the way.