Michigan's First Telepharmacy: Q&A with Pharmacist & Owner Tyler Jenema

Mitch Larson | November 19, 2020

Tyler Jenema, PharmD, is the owner of Peninsula Pharmacy and Peninsula Pharmacy Plus in Marquette, Michigan. In addition to his role as pharmacist and business owner, he serves as a consultant pharmacist for multiple ambulatory surgical centers, as well as adjunct professor of Advanced Pharmacology for the Doctor of Nurse Practitioner Program at Northern Michigan University.

As if he’s not busy enough, Tyler is also in the process of opening his first telepharmacy site in Escanaba, Michigan, which will also be the first telepharmacy in the state. We connected with Tyler to learn more from him about his pharmacy experience, his journey into telepharmacy, and how he sees it impacting his practice and patients.

Tyler Jenema, PharmDTyler Jenema: pharmacist, professor, consultant, husband, and father of three.

Walk us through your pharmacy journey to this point in your career.

My parents purchased Peninsula Pharmacy in 1997, so after I graduated from pharmacy school in 2009 I went to work for my father and began learning from him. We were able to open a second pharmacy together in 2014, and I ultimately took over and purchased the pharmacy from him when he retired a few years ago. Since the opening of that second pharmacy, we have grown tremendously, and even expanded our durable medical equipment business so much that it is now its own standalone business as well. One constant throughout my career is the fact that I am always on the lookout for expansion opportunities.

Tell us about your pharmacy business, locations, and staff.

As I mentioned, we have two locations, and both of them are located in Marquette, Michigan. The original location is called Peninsula Pharmacy, and is located inside a medical center building. The other is Peninsula Pharmacy Plus, which is a standalone pharmacy location. These are both traditional pharmacies with pharmacists on-site, and we have five full-time pharmacists.

The Peninsula Pharmacy site has a close working relationship with a mental health clinic in Marquette, and this allows our pharmacists to really provide that high-touch, personal service to these patients. With mental health, it’s really important that patients are adherent to their medications and have high quality, specific counseling for their particular situations. All of our pharmacists have an affinity for the mental health population and enjoy caring for that particular patient base.

We also have relationships with various hospice facilities, group homes, and assisted living facilities in the area, so we’re able to keep ample business coming for the pharmacies, both in terms of medications as well as various other clinical services.

You are opening the first telepharmacy in Michigan - what led you to pursue telepharmacy?

For the past couple of years, I’ve been looking at Escanaba, MI as a potential opportunity for expansion, given our focus on mental health and the fact they have a mental health clinic there in town. I was never able to make the business model fit for a startup pharmacy in that environment, simply due to the fact that the volume at that location would not be able to sustain a traditional pharmacy on-site.

I wasn’t sure how I would be able to make that location feasible, but then I saw telepharmacy legislation was in the works in Michigan, and I realized telepharmacy could be a solution that would allow us to provide that same high-touch level of service, but with lower costs, making that location financially viable for us. I expressed my interest in telepharmacy and was able to provide my input and support for the telepharmacy bill in Michigan, and as a member of the board of directors for the Michigan Pharmacist Association’s Upper Peninsula chapter, I played a small part in advocating for the progress and appropriate language of the bill.

How did you decide on a location for the telepharmacy, and how will in benefit your business and patients?

The telepharmacy site is in Escanaba, MI which is a community of about 12,000 people in the Upper Peninsula. There are a few chain pharmacy locations in town where patients get their prescriptions now, but these pharmacies may or may not have the proper knowledge and insight to serve this particular and unique patient population. With that in mind, we’re working hand-in-hand with the mental health clinic in town to provide that specialized, high-touch service these patients need.

The telepharmacy site is not operational just yet, we have a few things left to finalize before we go live, but in the meantime we are couriering medications to the patients of the clinic so we can ensure there isn’t a gap in administration. We’re also synchronizing patients’ medications so they don’t have to make multiple visits to the telepharmacy. Once we are up and running, our mid-range plan is to have a pharmacist on-site periodically to administer injectables, but will later transition into a process where the nurses or physicians at the clinic would administer the injectable medications we have in the telepharmacy inventory.

Did the COVID-19 pandemic have any impact on your decision to pursue telepharmacy?

We actually decided to move forward with telepharmacy prior to the pandemic, so we didn’t really second guess it since we were committed. Overall COVID-19 has brought telemedicine into the mainstream and has allowed patients, physicians, and pharmacists to be more comfortable with telehealth practices in general. In that regard, the pandemic actually has solidified our decision to move forward and has helped us and others realize just how beneficial and impactful telepharmacy can be to provide better access to care for underserved communities.

 

We extend a big thank-you to Tyler for taking the time to discuss his practice with us. If you're a pharmacist and are interested in pursuing telepharmacy, the first step is to check your state's regulations to see if telepharmacy is permitted in your state. Click below to find out:

telepharmacy regulations

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