An Interview with Victor Guadagnino, Jr.
The legalization of medical cannabis in Pennsylvania, while very successful in numbers, has not been without problems. The lack of patient education is one that stands out. Patients are not always receiving necessary advice which leads to not receiving the best medicine for their situation. The team at Keystone Canna Remedies is actively working to change that.
Victor Guadagnino, Jr., owner and chief business development officer at Keystone Canna Remedies, spoke with Dispense Magazine Publisher Sven Hosford and Editor-in-Chief Kristal Oknefski recently to discuss how he and his team seek to change the medical cannabis industry. His goal is to change the way all medicine — not just cannabis — is practiced by using a patient-focused philosophy to empower patients.
A Family History of Patient Service
Keystone Canna Remedies is not your average dispensary. They are a full service, patient-focused facility staffed with physicians, medical professionals, biologists, pharmacists, therapists, yoga instructors and, of course, patient care specialists. Their team helps patients through the entire process of receiving a diagnosis, obtaining a medical marijuana card, recommending the appropriate medication,
and offering educational services and aftercare. Based in the Lehigh Valley Area, Victor said, “Our first store, the main store is in Bethlehem. Our second store in Allentown opened two months ago, and we just got approval for our third in Stroudsburg.” KCR is a family-owned and operated business of healthcare professionals. Victor’s father, Dr. Victor Guadagnino, is a physician. His aunt, Joan, was the healthcare manager of his cardiology practice in Brooklyn, N.Y. Victor, Jr. managed the laboratory for that practice. His mother is a nurse.
Although the family-operated their practice out of New York, the Guadagnino’s are no strangers to Pennsylvania. They have family and friends in the area and have spent much time in PA over the years. They chose to open their facilities here because of the quality of the program.
“Pennsylvania has always been a second home for us. Quite honestly, the program that the department helped put in place is a great program and for medical patients compared to other states is, in my opinion, the best program there is,” Victor said. “And when I say a healthy program, I mean the number of conditions, physicians, access to physicians. The fact that there’s a physician registry is huge. There’s no restriction on cannabinoid potency, no restriction on seed bank. Those are markers of a great program, and we just wanted to be part of that.
“We felt like it was an opportunity where our particular brand identity resonated well with the program in terms of being patient-focused and medical professional-led. So Pennsylvania was always the choice.”
Victor said the team’s major reason for getting into the industry was to help change how medicine operates.
“Before we were in this cannabis arena, we operated a small private practice in Brooklyn, N.Y.,” he said. “I have a Master’s Degree in Bioethics at NYU, so Bioethics is really a focus on patient care and patient education. My father has been running the practice there for almost 30 years and he’s a solo practitioner, which is very rare in today’s healthcare space, and in medicine in general. It’s something
that we took a lot of pride in.”
“We put a lot of focus on one-on-one consultation with our patients,” he said. “We saw cannabis as a new healthcare industry to get into, but we also saw it as an opportunity to use cannabis as a catalyst to reinvigorate patients into their healthcare and combating paternalistic trends of major healthcare systems coming online.”
“We saw cannabis as a huge opportunity to put patients back in the driver’s seat of their own health care through a personalized approach.”
The team at Keystone Canna Remedies is dedicated to treating each and every patient as an individual, not a number. They are dedicated to providing superior service on every level, from the user experience of their website to a visit to one of the locations.
“What we’ve been trying to do is make sure that not one patient has a negative experience with cannabis,” Victor said. “This was our first goal, and everything that we’ve done now has been in an effort to do that. So we want our website to be a resource for credible sources, that talk plainly and professionally with patients so that we can really move cannabis into a more accepted light. We’ve been trying to straddle the line between medical professionalism and the cannabis culture that has brought medical programs into states.”
Education is Key
Victor detailed the education that Keystone Canna Remedies provides.
“We do education on three fronts — for our patients, for our staff and for our recommending physicians,” he said. “We opened before product was ready, and for the first two weeks we provided educational workshops for patients with our chief pharmacist, going over things like different types of vaporization products, concentrates vs. cartridges, how to use those devices, how to dose properly — everything from Medical Marijuana 101 to mapping your endocannabinoid system.”
“The beauty of cannabis is that you need to go out and explore a dose to find it, to find the right ratio, the right terpene profile, and the right format,” he said. “We are here to help you do that. So a person who has been using cannabis for a very long time may know exactly what was
working for them, but in a legal program, they have never had this many options available to them.” “You need to have a structured approach to exploring what is good for you, and your chances are higher in finding that particular product or that particular terpene profile that is going to resonate well with your endocannabinoid system.”
“We need to answer questions through education,” Victor said. “What is in the plant that is interacting with the body? The plant, the endocannabinoid system and then how to dose,” he added. “When you start answering these questions, people’s faces change, particularly physicians. We want to do that on every level so the most important part is our staff. I want my staff to be a resource for patients who are exploring cannabis as a medication.”
“Pennsylvania requires a pharmacist to be on the premises in dispensaries,” he said. “But there is some sentiment in the industry that’s an extra burden — It’s an extra payroll cost. We use our pharmacists functionally. We use them to onboard patients. We require initial consults for the patient to sit down with the pharmacists. They get an uninterrupted amount of time with a medical professional. We do not charge for the consult. You do not charge for any follow-up consults. We want to make sure that they have that confidence. On our intake form, we ask what their goal of therapy is.”
“I think a large part is just empowering the patient and equipping them with the tools to be introspective in terms of how this medicine is affecting them. That is gonna give them the confidence to explore. A lot of the times when you ask them to give you feedback, they don’t even know what feedback to give you.”
“That process can take up to a month. It could take up to two months. Another important point is I don’t want patients to get frustrated. There are a lot of options to explore. How I phrase it for them is this — this is a ladder that we’re gonna climb together and that there are a lot of rungs to climb. We can explore a lot of different things, especially if nothing’s working off the bat. Don’t get frustrated. There is a lot of opportunities to look out for.”
You can find Keystone Canna Remedies online at keystonecannaremedies.com, and be sure to follow them on Facebook and Instagram. You can hear the entire interview with Victor as a podcast at DispenseMagazine.com.
Keep your eyes peeled for updates to listen to the full podcast featuring Victor Guadagnino, Jr., Sven Hosford and Kristal Oknefski!