Guest post by Nicole van Rensburg, Partner at Midwest Compassion Center in Romeoville, Illinois
The Illinois medical cannabis market, undoubtedly, has been off to a slow start. Nearly 2 ½ years into a 4-year Medical Cannabis Pilot Program, the state has a lackluster 6,000 registered patients and just 36 of the 56 approved dispensaries have opened.
Faced with a series of state-specific issues including mandated patient fingerprinting for medical cannabis cardholders; physicians who are resistant to certifying patients for medical cannabis treatment; a limited number of qualifying conditions (that exclude all psychiatric conditions and conditions, like PTSD, chronic pain, osteoarthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, insomnia, etc.); an onerous patient and physician application process; a 45 to 60 day state application review and approval period; a one-to-one caregiver to patient ratio; and patient designation of a single dispensary to obtain their medication from, I, as a healthcare entrepreneur and partner at family-owned Midwest Compassion Center, resourcefully seek to surmount the challenges of the IL medical cannabis market through a five-pronged approach:
Educating the Community
MCC staff speaks directly to prospective patients and figuratively holds their hand throughout the application process. We have also organized a well-informed community outreach team of cannabis enthusiasts, patients, and activists to open up public dialogue. They attend community events like 5K’s, movies in the park, health fairs, and veteran meet-ups. Having these in-person conversations is crucial to pivoting public perception and getting would-be, qualified patients enrolled in the program.
Partnerships With Thought Leaders
Our company has identified a group of individuals who we believe are thought leaders within the industry. Although these thought leaders come from a diverse background, they are all outspoken. Thought leaders include a social media marketing guru, blogger on current industry events, several champions for the cause, veteran advocates, and founders of highly active medical cannabis Facebook groups.
Close Ties With Patient Service Providers
MCC has teamed up with other organizations in the industry who play a critical role in the patient application process. These include fingerprinting vendors, physicians amenable to exploring cannabis as a treatment option for their patients, and consultants who provide medical cannabis application assistance. By working closely with these organizations, MCC helps to make the application process easier for patients.
Alliances with Disease Specific Associations
Through a targeted approach of allying with disease specific associations, MCC is working with state-based non-profits, such as the Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Chicago and AIDS Foundation of Chicago, to host educational events. These organization’s members may already be medicating with alternative or homeopathic products or seeking ways that medical cannabis can complement their existing pharmaceutical treatment plan. Additionally, some members may medicate with cannabis purchased on the black market. The MCC Staff recognizes that each person approaches medical cannabis from a different knowledge base and seeks to address concerns on an individual basis.
Leveraging MCC’s collective 90+ years of background in the medical industry (26 years of which were spent dispensing medication prescribed by other health practitioners) allows us to confidently speak to local oncologists, family practitioners, neurologists, rheumatologists, and other clinicians about the benefits of medical cannabis for their patient base. MCC visits doctors at their offices, has conversations with their staff, and lets them know that the Company’s pharmacist and dispensing agents are ready to answer their questions. Though medical research is limited, MCC has diligently worked to aggregate a library of studies from credible sources that provide disease specific evidence of cannabis efficacy.
The road ahead for the Illinois medical cannabis program appears to be a long and bumpy one, but I’m optimistic about its future.
About the author:
With 21 years in the healthcare field, Nicole van Rensburg brings her expertise in physician education, quality assurance, and patient interactions to Midwest Compassion Center, a licensed dispensary in Romeoville, Illinois. She is an active partner in her family businesses, which provide mobile neurological, ultrasound, allergy, and asthma testing in 28 states throughout the country. Over the years, these businesses have diagnosed tens of thousands of patients with many of the conditions that qualify for medical cannabis.
Nicole draws upon her strong interest in the medicinal properties of the plant to procure top-quality cannabis products tailored for patients’ specific ailments. She works closely with her brother, Will, to ensure Midwest Compassion Center provides for a positive and memorable patient experience. Nicole holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Emory University and is pursuing a Master in Business Administration at Northwestern University. Nicole’s hobbies include ballet, reading, and babysitting her niece and nephew.
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