A telepharmacy, or remote-dispensing site, operates like a traditional pharmacy except for the pharmacist reviews prescriptions from a remote location. Let's do a deeper dive into how telepharmacy works.
Retail telepharmacy technology has drastically changed since the North Dakota Telepharmacy Project paved the way in the early 2000s. Although hardware solutions were the standard for the first telepharmacy pilot projects, they are cost-prohibitive and expensive to repair and update. Today's modern telepharmacies use software to enhance their workflow and improve patient safety. To be sure we're on the same page, we're discussing retail, outpatient or discharge telepharmacy. Click here If you're looking for information on other types of telepharmacy.
Without further ado, here's how telepharamcy works in four simple steps.
P.s. if you're a visual learner, watch our short video on how retail telepharmacy works:
1. A prescription arrives at the pharmacy
Like a traditional pharmacy, prescriptions enter through the pharmacy management system (PMS). Telepharmacy software integrates with your current PMS for a seamless, real-time experience. This allows certified pharmacy technicians to focus on filling prescriptions.
2. The prescription is filled
After the prescription arrives at the pharmacy, technicians prepare it for dispensing by the pharmacist. When telepharmacy first started, technicians would send prescription information to off-site pharmacists via live-video connection. This was an inefficient practice as both the pharmacist and the technician had to be at their computer on the same screen at the same time.
Premier telepharmacy software has since transitioned to an image-based workflow which significantly decreases medication errors and optimizes productivity. This type of cloud-based telepharmacy software is notably cheaper than the expensive, hardware-based dust-collecting alternatives still available today.
Due to multiple built-in redundant checks, hard-halt workflows and HIPAA-compliant security, filling a prescription at a telepharmacy is more safe and accurate than having a prescription filled at a traditional pharmacy. According to the U.S. Department of Health, telepharmacies' error rate is less than 1%, a 50% improvement over traditional practice and half the national average.
For the prescription to be verified, technicians send images of the script, medication labels, pills, and the medication bottle with the lot number and expiration date in view to the remote pharmacist. These images, along with the patient’s profile, are securely stored on the cloud for review before, during or after verification.
3. The pharmacist reviews the prescription
Before verifying the prescription, pharmacists can review the patient’s medication profile for drug interactions and other potential problems. After the pharmacist reviews the images they can either approve or reject the submission. If rejected, the pharmacist leaves notes for the technician regarding the discrepancy. If approved, the technician is notified and the medication is packaged and placed in will-call.
One pharmacist can verify prescriptions for multiple pharmacies, or the workload can be shared between pharmacists in multiple locations thus decreasing overall costs.
Click here to read one pharmaicst's point of view on remote dispensing in the retail setting.
4. Live-video patient counseling
TelePharm's software requires that the patient speak with the pharmacist before dispensing their medication. The remote pharmacist has all necessary patient information, including medication history, readily available during counseling.
Patient-counseling sessions are safe, secure and private due to the HIPAA-compliant live-video HD connection provided by most telepharmacy solutions. Remote-counseling services are growing in popularity as broadband internet becomes more accessible and network bandwidth requirements go down.
That's how telepharmacy works!
Look at you, you remote-dispensing maven, you. Here are three quick takeaways:
- A telepharmacy operates like a traditional pharmacy except for the pharmacist reviews and verifies prescriptions from a remote location.
- An image-based telepharmacy workflow is more safe and accurate than having a prescription filled at a traditional pharmacy.
- One pharmacist can verify prescriptions for multiple pharmacies, or the workload can be shared between pharmacists in multiple locations.
Want to learn how healthcare facilities can benefit from telepharmacy? Read: 8 Applications for Telepharmacy.