“I highly recommend retail telepharmacy to any pharmacy owners, directors or pharmacists,” said Angela Falk, Pharm.D., Sav Mor Pharmacy.
Angela is a pharmacist at Sav Mor Pharmacy, an independent pharmacy with fifteen locations spread across Illinois. She first heard about telepharmacy as an aspiring pharmacist in pharmacy school. Now, ten years into her profession, she is reviewing prescriptions for multiple remote-dispensing sites and thoroughly enjoys creating a relationship with her telepharmacy patients.
We sat down with Angela to get a pharmacist's point of view on retail telepharmacy.
Q: Tell us about your pharmacy career; what interested you in pharmacy?
“I received my Doctorate of Pharmacy from Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, Florida. I chose a career in pharmacy because I wanted to help people in the medical field, but I don’t have the stomach for blood and guts. I like math and chemistry, so to me, pharmacy seemed like a good path to follow. I graduated in 2006 and I’ve been a pharmacist for 10 years now.”
Q: What did you first think of telepharmacy?
“I was a little hesitant at first. I was initially afraid of signing off on prescription medication that wasn’t physically right in front of me; it was something I couldn't touch or feel. I was also worried about the older generation of patients accepting it. I thought they would be hesitant to get their prescriptions filled without a pharmacist on-site at their pharmacy. How would they react to new technology in the pharmacy? How would they react to no “druggist” in the building?
But honestly, that’s never come up. I’ve been instrumental in the startup of our Atwood and Mt. Pulaski (both in Illinois) telepharmacies for several months now and we’ve received nothing but positive feedback. We haven’t had any customer complaints about the pharmacist being located off-site.”
Q: What did you think of telepharmacy after you visited a telepharmacy site?
“We visited a remote telepharmacy site and their verification site as well. I was super impressed with the technicians — they were spectacular. They can truly make or break a telepharmacy. We also visited the verification, or host, site and TelePharm’s software was incredible. The clarity of the images, the simplicity of the workflow and the ability to communicate with technicians were the best part. I thought “this is just outstanding.” It’s hard to make a mistake with TelePharm versus being in a regular, traditional pharmacy because you have to go through so many steps.
After visiting a telepharmacy and understanding the software and workflow I was a lot more open to the idea. Plus the option to include any notes in the system or easily communicate any issues with the technician about their work made it very easy.
I will also say that first I researched telepharmacy laws in Illinois because I wanted to read and understand what all the differences were going to be. I read over the language and used that as a resource.”
Q: What do you see as the biggest benefit of telepharmacy?
“Telepharmacy provides a fully functional pharmacy to patients in rural and underserved communities who would otherwise have to travel a long distance to receive adequate pharmacy care. As a pharmacist, providing better pharmacy access to patients is invaluable. Patients can come in at any time and talk to us via the counseling tablet with any question they may have. Especially now in the winter with inclement weather telepharmacy is great because it provides better, easier, more convenient pharmacy access.”
Q: Are you able to develop that patient pharmacist relationship in a telepharmacy?
“Absolutely. We constantly hear about how wonderful our pharmacists are. Telepharmacy helps create a new patient-pharmacist relationship that wasn’t possible before. We also hear about how great our technicians are, as well.”
Q: What would you tell pharmacists and people who have concerns about telepharmacy?
“As a pharmacist overseeing a telepharmacy from a remote location, your number one goal is to make sure everything is done correctly with safety in mind. From the moment the technician receives the prescription, I, the pharmacist, can manage the process. We have our technicians take seven images before we review the prescription. The images are crystal clear, the process is thorough and if there’s anything that we do not feel comfortable with we ask for additional pictures or for more information. The fact that we can easily communicate with technicians throughout the process really helps.
At our Atwood telepharmacy we have a pharmacist that’s been practicing for about four years now. She recently became a pharmacist in-charge, but she’s all about technology so she’s very comfortable with it. We also have an older pharmacist that was very hesitant at first. She didn’t want to participate initially, but we showed her the system, opened her mind to it and she is now remotely reviewing prescriptions and counseling patients. She’s done a great job transitioning.
I would recommend a site visit to see the retail telepharmacy workflow in action. Had I not been able to see it in action I don’t know if I would have agreed to it. As a pharmacist, you want to make sure you do everything correctly and TelePharm’s software platform allows for that.”
Q: How has your experience with TelePharm been? Would you recommend it to others?
“I highly recommend retail telepharmacy to any pharmacy owners or pharmacists. We haven’t had any bad experiences with telepharmacy and we’ve had nothing but positive feedback from our patients. We’re always serving new patients and our monthly prescription counts are going up at our telepharmacies — It’s been great.
Another thing that’s really helpful is the customer support from telepharm. If we have any issues we can contact customer support and within five minutes our problem is fixed.”
Q: Do you have any advice for pharmacists or pharmacy owners interested in pursuing telepharmacy?
“Make sure you have good, accurate, hard-working technicians staffing your telepharmacies. You will want someone who has great customer-service skills, is trustworthy and reliable and is ready for the added responsibility of working in a remote-dispensing site.”
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