“Telepharmacy is working well in North Dakota. It is a great way to restore and retain pharmacy services for many remote rural communities throughout the state. Telepharmacy services produce the same quality as the traditional mode of delivery and provide some value-added features that are not found in traditional pharmacy practice.”
Dr. Charles D. Peterson
Dean, Professor, and Principal Investigator/Director
ND Telepharmacy Project
NDSU College of Pharmacy, Nursing, and Allied Science
The delivery of remote healthcare continues to grow at an astonishing rate. Different applications for telemedicine have appeared including providing access to remote specialists, telestroke, telepsychology and many more. One of the areas of medicine to most recently be enhanced by telemedicine is the pharmacy.
In many areas, finding qualified pharmacists can be just as, if not more difficult, than finding doctors. This is particularly prevalent in smaller rural communities. In addition, many of these rural sites have seen their funding cut and their pharmacy closed, leaving a huge lack of services for a community’s population.
A pharmacist’s role in patient care is critical and includes:
- Drug counseling
- Dispensing of medications
- Providing health advice
- Patient education
- Immunization administration
- and more…
Pharmacists can now provide these services remotely. Telepharmacy takes several forms depending on the type of healthcare organization involved. But at a high level, a licensed pharmacist sits at a centralized location and supervises registered technicians at each of the remote locations. The technician does the actual dispensing work and the remote pharmacist is then able to visually inspect the technician’s work to ensure that the proper dosage and medication has been collected for the patient.
When the patient arrives, the technician will connect them to the remote site (usually via video in a private room or kiosk) and then the pharmacist can then provide any needed counselling or information.
This is the traditional model of telepharmacy, but usage continues to involve to including hospitals and rural clinics and even remote dispensing machines similar to ATMs.
Legislation and Implementation
Not unlike other areas of telehealth, telepharmacy is governed by state to state legislation. North Dakota was the first state to pass legislation allowing retail pharmacies to operate without the pharmacist being “physically” present. Other states have passed similar laws including Alaska, Washington and California. More states continue to add telepharmacy to their regulations.
The largest deployment of telepharmacy current resides with the U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine.
Clearly, there is much to be gained with telepharmacy and with legislation rapidly growing, implementation will increase rapidly.