Insights - Article

What is Telepharmacy?

Telepharmacy is the practice of pharmacy from a remote location utilizing telecommunications technology such as computers and video screens.

The American Society of Hospital Pharmacists (ASHP) defines telepharmacy as:

“A method in which a pharmacist utilizes telecommunications technology to oversee aspects of pharmacy operations or provide patient care services.”

Telepharmacy can be utilized in retail or in clinical settings, such as hospitals or nursing homes. PipelineRx currently focuses on clinical pharmacy services.

what is telepharmacy - telepharmacy

Clinical telepharmacy is commonly used to provide remote services (outsourcing) to supplement in-house resources for scheduled or on-demand coverage during:

  • Peak times & emergencies
  • Off-hours
  • Staff vacation and personal leave
  • Unscheduled callouts and terminations

Telepharmacy can also be used to consolidate in-house pharmacy resources (insourcing). This model is enabled by a cloud-based, HIPAA-compliant telepharmacy technology platform that enables a centralized and detailed view of operational and clinical data across disparate locations, and optimizes workflow.

Whether located within the IDN or off-site, telepharmacists perform the same tasks that onsite pharmacists perform, such as:

  • Medication order review and verification
  • Providing pharmacokinetic dosing recommendations
  • Identifying interventions for drug interactions, recent labs, allergies, etc.
  • Clinical consultation for prescribers and nurses
  • Monitoring of formulary compliance
  • Enforcing drug use policies of the health care organization
  • Counseling patients regarding use of medicationsPerforming medication reconciliation
  • Providing specialized clinical services such as antimicrobial stewardship

what is telepharmacy - working

The physical dispensing of medications is handled by on-location pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and/or dispensing equipment.

Telepharmacy Benefits

The primary and immediate tactical benefits of telepharmacy are reduced costs, faster and more consistent medication order review times, a higher level of clinical interventions, increased flexibility, and improved work satisfaction by pharmacy staff.

Common strategic benefits of telepharmacy include the cost-effective achievement of consistent, 24/7 pharmacy coverage, extended coverage to smaller facilities within an IDN, increased job-satisfaction by front-line staff such as nurses, more time for clinical initiatives like antimicrobial stewardship and medication reconciliation, and potential revenue-generation by supporting nearby facilities.

How Telepharmacy Addresses Big-Picture Hospital Concerns

Doctors Hospital Corridor Nurse Pushing Gurney Stretcher BedIn order to provide remote pharmacists with relevant patient data, telepharmacy solutions must be able to aggregate patient information across settings of care and from a myriad of sources including multiple EHRs, recent labs, allergies, and medication history.

Thus, in addition to these immediate benefits, the underlying technical plumbing that powers telepharmacy can provide major long-term impact to five of the biggest concerns of hospital executives today:

  1. Improving Population Health
    Telepharmacy enables hospitals to identify and drive value to targeted populations through educational outreach and remote pharmacy, such as when a new drug that helps diabetes patients comes to market.
  2. Managing Bundled Payments
    Hospitals can utilize pharmacy data to coordinate information about medication efficacy across the health system to better manage costs in diagnosis-related group (DRG) reimbursement environments.
  3. Driving Medication Management
    Telepharmacy can be a powerful tool in driving medication management across settings of care. For example, hospitals can track the use of antibiotics and opioids across all care settings and provide stewardship to ensure appropriate use and thereby reduce abuse and readmissions.
  4. Minimizing Risk and Readmissions
    Telepharmacists can perform medication reconciliation to reduce drug interactions and duplicate therapies; in addition to providing direct counsel to patients on medication adherence during transitions of care.
  5. Establish Standardization
    Roll-up reporting can help administrators minimize unwanted clinical variation by driving standardization around formularies, policies, and procedures across an IDN.
  6. Increasing Pharmacy Revenues
    Telemedicine platforms enable healthcare organizations to expand into, or further into, outpatient medications and to provide outreach to affiliated and nonaffiliated facilities for new revenue streams.

Want to learn more about telepharmacy? Contact us today for information about deploying telepharmacy infrastructure to optimize your pharmacist resources.