Telepharmacy Benefits and Use Cases: Part 1 – Beyond Order Entry

This article is about the benefits of using telepharmacy services in individual hospitals. See part two to learn how telepharmacy can improve operations in multi-facility organizations. See part three for some real-world case studies of Telepharmacy 2.0 in action.

Telepharmacy today is not what it used to be. With recent advances in specialized software and integrated technology, telepharmacy workflow is now more sophisticated and optimized, delivering higher quality at a lower cost. And by streamlining communications and processes, remote teams can serve as a true extension of your onsite team, increasing both patient and employee satisfaction.

Pharmacies are a critical service point and cost center for hospitals. Their operational efficiency has far-reaching impacts.

What is Telepharmacy?

Telepharmacy is defined simply as the act of providing pharmacy services remotely using telecommunications technologies. It can be applied to both retail and clinical settings (although we will be focusing here on its clinical applications). Traditionally telepharmacy was seen as a way to meet the requirement for 24/7 pharmacy coverage set by hospital accreditation bodies, particularly when staffing for night and evening shifts was difficult and/or cost prohibitive. Often, these services were limited to routine “remote order entry” given the minimal information flow available to these off-site pharmacists.

Telepharmacy allows healthcare organizations to extend or optimize their pharmacy operations.

Telepharmacy Use Cases: Beyond Remote Order Entry

Telepharmacy has changed dramatically over the past few years as advanced software has become available that integrates with EHRs and other hospital systems. This integration provides remote pharmacists with significant contextual information and optimized workflows that help them make more complex decisions.

Today telepharmacy is a cost-effective approach not only to ensure 24/7 prospective medication order review and verification, but to deliver more consistent turnaround times during any shift, to provide backup coverage during natural disasters, weather events and other emergencies, and to free up your staff for high-value clinical initiatives.

Extending Pharmacy Coverage: Getting to 24/7

For smaller critical-access facilities and those located in rural areas, telepharmacy services allow medication orders to be reviewed and verified even when your on-site pharmacy is closed. This can significantly improve operations as first shift pharmacists don’t start their day catching up on overnight orders, and can provide notable patient safety benefits associated with prospective medication order review.

Telepharmacy helps healthcare organizations easily and cost-effectively extend pharmacy coverage.

Flexible Supplemental Coverage

For any size hospital, it’s not just about extending coverage. It’s also about supporting current coverage with flexible resources. This not only prevents long-term pharmacist burnout, but it can keep hospital operations working consistently no matter what is going on. To that end, telepharmacy has become an extremely effective — and cost-effective — solution for providing both scheduled and demand-based coverage during:

  • Unscheduled callouts
  • Peak times and emergencies
  • Natural disasters and weather events
  • Personal leaves of absence

Advantages over Per Diem or Locum Tenens

Temporary staffing by per diem or locum tenens pharmacists is generally expensive on a per medication order basis. In addition, these temps are typically unfamiliar with your hospital’s unique operating procedures which can impact quality and efficiency.

On the other hand, by using advanced telepharmacy software and a team-based model, like we do at PipelineRx, the remote pharmacists have all the contextual information they need to make informed decisions and reduce medication errors. They are trained on your hospital’s formulary, policies, and procedures plus have single-pane access to the patient’s relevant history, allergies, labs, and all current medication orders to further ensure patient safety.

Telepharmacy allows you to always have a pharmacist available – no matter what last minute emergencies.

Free Up Your On-Site Staff

The benefits of telepharmacy services go beyond improving operations and cost. With optimized workflows and less time spent on medication order review and verification, it also frees your pharmacists to work at the top of their license. They will have more time to participate in direct patient care and drive valuable clinical initiatives such as:
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  • Discharge management
  • Antimicrobial stewardship
  • Medication reconciliation
  • Opioid oversight
  • Transitions of care

Participating in clinical programs not only helps hospitals improve quality outcomes, but also helps them hire top-tier physicians, improve their rankings, and gain access to advanced technologies.

Utilizing telepharmacy frees up your pharmacists to participate in more clinical programs and initiatives.

Interested in learning more about how telepharmacy can help you achieve your hospital’s objectives? Contact us.