Telepharmacy Addressing Rural Staffing Shortages

Rural areas of the United States facing shortage issues in clinical pharmacy services staffing are finding a solution in telehealth and telepharmacy, according to an article from HealthLeaders. The article describes the experience of healthcare providers with implementing telepharmacy services, which includes pharmacy services such as medication dispensation.

“We tried to hire a full-time pharmacist for about a year to have an on-site pharmacist,” said Randall Tobler, MD, CEO of Scotland County Hospital, based in Memphis, MO, in the article. But the hospital was unable to find someone to take the position. Taking an approach that integrated telepharmacy services from PipelineRx, based in San Francisco, CA, and a part-time pharmacy director, the hospital was able to establish the 24/7 pharmacy services it had been trying to implement.

While formulary decisions are made by their staff pharmacist, the telepharmacy service provider accomplishes other tasks such as checking for drug interactions and making dosing adjustments, according to Tobler.

Prior to contracting with PipelineRx, Scotland County Hospital had to make do with relying on the local retail pharmacy to fill the hospital’s pharmaceutical needs, which was an imperfect solution that created compliance issues. The pharmacist was not always available, but the needs of a hospital are on a 24/7 schedule, making continual coverage essential. “May times, we had to invoke the emergency rule to have orders reviewed after the fact. Under Medicare, all first-dose orders—whether it is the patient’s own medication or something a doctor prescribes—have to be reviewed by a pharmacist unless there is an emergency,” Tobler explained to HealthLeaders.

According to Tobler, implementing the telepharmacy solution has improved turnaround times for patients and allowed pharmacy techs to focus on their core duties.

Sarah Sheber is assistant editor/web editor at Journal of AHIMA.

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