CA Clinics – The Whole Story

CA Clinics (AKA Cannabis Access Clinics) are carving out a specific niche for themselves – they're operating as a conduit between doctor and patient, using Telehealth to provide cannabis access to remote Australians. We dropped in for a little catch up.

How did Cannabis Access Clinics begin life and who formed it? What milestones brought it to the point it’s at now?

CA Clinics​ started in 2018 when we recognised that the biggest problem in the industry was a lack of doctors willing to prescribe medicinal cannabis in Australia, even though the treatment had been legal since early 2016.

To solve this problem, CA Clinics was set up as the country’s first dedicated medical clinic supporting doctors interested and willing to prescribe cannabis for patients using the legal pathways available.

CA Clinics started in Sydney then expanded to QLD, WA, VIC and now helps patients nationwide. We even have patients in the remotest corners of Australia!

What are your goals for Cannabis Access Clinics? Can you conceive of a “finish line” and what does that look like?
CA Clinics aims to be the best in providing quality treatment for our patients and the best in supporting doctors looking for legal medicinal cannabis therapies. There is still a lot to do and there may never be a finish line but when patients can get access to treatment as quickly and easily as other medicines in Australia, that would be great.

How do you figure out if things are going in the right direction or whether you need to correct the course?
We listen to our patients! We can’t always do everything they ask, but we try our best. We also listen to our referring doctors and of course the doctors who are working in our clinic. They have seen remarkable results in some patients and are always coming up with ideas about how we can improve our treatments.

What’s different about your brand and how you do business?

The CA Clinics brand aims to offer quality, accessible and convenient healthcare. The ways we try to achieve this are as follows:

  • A range of specialists such as psychiatrists, pain and addiction specialists to treat specific issues.
  • Dedicated programs for different patient groups such as rural & remote communities, veterans, workplace injuries and others.
  • Access to the lowest cost medicines – our doctors are sensitive to patient costs and try wherever possible to prescribe the most cost effective clinically suitable medicine.
  • We are always here for you – our patient care team can be contactable by phone every day and is ready answer questions and to help patients with the process.

Millennial consumers are more conscious than any previous generation about who they’re giving their money too; how do you guys feel about transparency and is it something you personally find desirable in the businesses you support?

While the legal medicinal cannabis industry still has need of improvement, one of the best things for patients is that for the first time, because it’s now legal healthcare, everyone is accountable. Patients know who their doctor is and what product they are getting. Doctor credentials can be checked on the AHPRA website, the companies making the products are legal and known entities, and medicine contains what it says on the label.

While the black market products have been used for years and many patients say they have had good results, one of the biggest problems is that patients can’t be sure who made the product and what it contains. This could simply mean that the patient has no benefit, but it could also risk a patient’s life with dangerous contaminants such as heavy metals, pesticides, bacteria and other dangerous chemicals being present in the medicine.

Some brands try to provide the lowest cost, others try to provide the highest quality. The interaction between both defines where you are on the value scale between budget and luxury. Where do you situate Cannabis Access Clinics and why did you choose to set up camp there?

Our head office is in Sydney but our doctors are located all over Australia and see patients via Telehealth. This is not only convenient for the patients, it helps keep costs low.

Another advantage of our clinic is that Medicare allows us to bulk bill the majority of our patients so ongoing consultation costs for these patients are zero.

On the product side (CA Clinics is not a product supplier) our doctors try to select the lowest cost medicine available in the market – this is always changing so patients who feel they are overpaying for medicines may benefit from seeing if their doctor can identify any newer, cheaper products that may suit them.

What do you feel is the best thing about your brand? What has the most room for improvement?

  • BEST: As the first and largest network of cannabis clinics in Australia, we are known for our depth of experience and our breadth of coverage. Our doctors are ready to help patients anywhere in Australia, no matter how complex their cases are.
  • ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: Sadly we still get asked every day by patients and sometimes doctors, “Is medical cannabis legal in Australia?”. There is a lot to do to build awareness and make sure all patients who might benefit from this treatment have the opportunity to do so.

What’s your biggest challenge in terms of making Cannabis Access Clinics the best it can be? If you had a magic wand, what barrier would you remove?

The biggest challenge is getting the word out. In Australia there are strict limitations on advertising in the medical sector. There are still thousands of doctors and hundreds of thousands of patients who are not aware that they are able to get access to medicinal cannabis based treatments. Our magic wand would let every doctor in Australia know that we are ready to help them and their patients, if they feel medicinal cannabis might be worth a try!

Who is the community that surrounds Cannabis Access Clinics? How involved are they – active, passive, a mix?

We are lucky to have a large group of doctors who refer their patients to our clinic. We keep the referring doctor in the treatment loop and when they see positive outcomes for their patients they often introduce this therapy to their other patients.

We also have a lot of patients who have seen benefits from their treatment and advocate for us off their own bat by sharing their experience through word of mouth.

How would you describe the cultural landscape of the cannabis industry? What are we doing well and what do we need to do better?

The Australian cannabis industry is largely made up of passionate and entrepreneurial people doing difficult work in a challenging field which builds a sense of camaraderie and collaboration. People coming into the industry often remark on how open and helpful people are, which is important because working in the sector requires so much subject matter knowledge that isn’t written down anywhere.

What do we need to do better? I think we need to recognise that, in the long run, it’s our investments in clinical research that will produce the best outcomes for patients and companies in the sector. In a relatively new sector like medicinal cannabis, there has been a lot of focus on short-term revenue as some companies had their eyes on a so-called “Green Rush”, but now the industry is maturing into “Cannabis 2.0”, which is defined and driven by companies with real products or real services, positive cash flow and hopefully longevity!

Every business needs to balance “real world concerns” with “ideal world intentions”. In terms of Economic Factors versus Community Factors, how do you find your balance? Would you say you’re 50/50 or is there a stronger focus towards either side?

The hardest thing to balance is delivering both a legal medical service that holds itself to the highest professional standard and a medical product that is not covered by the government’s subsidy through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
A lot of medications available in Australia are heavily subsidised by the PBS so the maximum the patient with Medicare pays is $41 or if you’re a concession card holder it’s a maximum of​ $6.60​, which means that a lot of chronically ill patients find it difficult to pay for unsubsidized medicines which can be hundreds of dollar per month. On top of that, as a clinic, we have doctors’ fees, nurses, and a team of dedicated customer service providers, our “Patient Champions” to maintain.

That being said, we’re very proud of being able to provide bulk billing for the majority of our patients (rural, remote, DVA patients and concession card holders), and so we are very happy to say that we are the most cost effective medical cannabis doctor service in Australia right now.

In terms of community, have you entered into any partnerships or co-promotions with other brands who share similar goals? Are you open to this or do you have plans to do so in the future?

Knowledge is power, right! The more we know about how medicinal cannabis can affect conditions, the better our doctors can treat, the better the outcome for the patient.
CA Clinics is an advocate for research to advance therapy options. We have partnered with Applied Cannabis Research ​(ACR) and others to recruit study candidates and provide them with consultation services for medicinal cannabis at the same time.
CA Clinics’ doctors actively monitor patient progress during the studies and we’re really happy to be able to help push the frontier of new knowledge in areas such as epilepsy and PTSD. Also, importantly, often patients who participate in this research can access lower cost products.

And you can’t do your job well if you’re not armed with good data! CA Clinics has also partnered with ​FreshLeaf Analytics​, Australia’s leading data intelligence firm in the Australian cannabis space. FreshLeaf’s ​industry reports​ provide detailed and up-to-date information on medical cannabis in Australia, tracking product availability, price movements, new market entrants, doctor behaviour, patient preferences and regulatory changes, which keeps all stakeholders in the industry accurately informed.

Do your suppliers influence operations (beyond simple supply & demand), and how do they fit into your ecosystem? ​

The short answer is no! CA Clinics doctors are independent from the medical cannabis product suppliers, which is a really key factor for patients: because the medication that CA Clinics doctors prescribe is supplied through the pharmacy, our doctors can make their prescription decisions solely based on what is the most appropriate product for the patient’s condition and can’t be influenced to prescribe one product over another.

It also means our doctors try to find the most cost effective solution for their patients!

Does Cannabis Access Clinics give back to the community or planet in any way?

CA Clinics works closely with Australia’s veteran community and recognises that our returned service women and men have unique needs and often a desire for treatment options. CA Clinics’​ DVA Program​ was created to provide these treatment options in a cost-effective manner under the Department of Veterans’ Affairs framework, including DVA-funded medicinal cannabis.

We also work with rural and remote communities in Australia. It’s essential that patients regardless of location in Australia have access to care. To that end, we were the first medicinal cannabis clinic to implement a ​Rural and Remote​ program, partnering with local pharmacies in country or regional towns. Patients can simply go to that participating pharmacy and have access to experienced specialists through Telehealth and bulk billed consultations. The beauty of Telehealth knocks out distance.

How does cannabis enter and leave your ecosystem? E.g., where is it sourced from and what goes into the process while it’s “under your roof” before hitting the shelves?
Interestingly, many people ask if we have cannabis, but it doesn’t actually ever enter our ecosystem, as we provide medical consulting services only. We don’t hold or dispense this medication – you have to go to the pharmacy to fill your prescription in the same way that you would for other medication like antibiotics!

How are you guys currently tracking in terms of sustainability?

The biggest revolution in the industry which we’ve embraced wholeheartedly and championed from the start is Telehealth. Less patient commuting, less doctor commuting, no need for parking lots, less physical paperwork as everything is online and overall lower carbon footprint as we keep our physical offices to a minimum. This all not only supports the planet, but also offers patients and doctors more flexibility to not have to leave their homes – supporting better work life balance.

What’s coming next for Cannabis Access Clinics? ​

We are always looking for better ways to improve efficiency and cost for our patients even more. What does more efficiency mean? It equates to a patient getting their prescriptions and the medication they need quicker.
According to FreshLeaf Analytics, the ​average price per milligram over the 6 months to March 2020 dropped by over 17%, while the number of products available went from 76 to 100​. More choice and cheaper options can’t be a bad thing for patients. We look forward to seeing and supporting this positive trajectory even more.

Find out more about CA Clinics here. Have you got any comments or questions about the brand? Let us know!

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