Telepharmacy: Not Just for Rural Hospitals

By Brian Roberts • August 30, 2016

Telepharmacy Models

The use of telepharmacy has been increasing rapidly ever since states began passing regulations in the early 2000s. Most of the early adopters were rural health facilities that struggled to find qualified pharmacists or to rationalize hiring expensive resources when the volume wasn’t there. These facilities found that remote staffing was a cost-effective way to supplement their own staff. More importantly, it enabled them to provide 24/7 coverage and improved patient care.

New Models for Optimizing Pharmacy

This impact on patient care has led many hospitals and health systems, not just those located in rural areas, to evaluate telepharmacy solutions. For many IDNs, however, the issue is less about hiring more pharmacists, and more about optimizing the existing staff.  This means balancing demand across the system and making medication order review and verification more efficient.  Instead of (or in addition to) remote staffing, these organizations are adopting specialized technology that is designed to achieve these goals.

IDNs are Creating Internal Networks

Now IDNs, such as Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, are using telepharmacy technology platforms to establish an internal network across their facilities.  In this model, medication orders are optimally queued for review by available staff. This smooths out demand and supports standardization across the system. It also helps free up pharmacists for clinical activities aimed at improving outcomes and reducing readmissions.  Workflow is also greatly improved when the platform is integrated with the EHR and other hospital systems so that the pharmacists can make more informed decisions.

Positioning for Value-based Care

All in all, both large IDNs and small rural hospitals have been positioning themselves to succeed in the era of value-based care.  A major contributor to their success will be maximizing pharmacy staff involvement in the direct patient care process. With hundreds of hospitals nationwide already leveraging telepharmacy, new models will continue to arise.  Meanwhile, the benefits of delivering cost savings while improving patient outcomes are already proving themselves out across diverse care settings.

Brian Roberts is the CEO and co-founder of PipelineRx. He has spent most of his career focused on healthcare services and staffing, including leadership roles at Canopy Healthcare, CHG Healthcare Services, as well as venture capital firms Acacia Venture Partners and Summit Partners.