Although telepharmacy has been around since the North Dakota Telepharmacy Project in the early 2000s, modern technology has advanced remote dispensing to new heights.
Just as smartphones have evolved, today’s telepharmacies are much more efficient and technologically advanced than their predecessors. Advancements in technology have led to increased safety, cost savings and a better overall experience for patients and providers.
Let’s look at some factors to consider when thinking about telepharmacy solutions.
Telepharmacy software vs. telepharmacy hardware
There are both hardware and software solutions available for pharmacy owners/directors interested in pursuing remote-dispensing sites.
- Hardware solutions were the standard for early telepharmacy implementation, many of which are still in use today. This hardware provided the first secure connections, and enabled a new type of technology to penetrate the market. Early adopters quickly realized that hardware can be cost-prohibitive and expensive to repair and update. If the hardware stopped functioning, it could be challenging and time consuming to get IT support on site. These challenges, along with technological advancements, have led to dispensing software as the solution of choice for modern telepharmacy sites.
- Software solutions offer regular updates for increased functionality as time passes.
- Teams of developers work to improve and evolve software solutions by releasing new versions, implementing new features and fixing bugs in real-time if necessary.
Think about cell phones (hardware-based) from 10 years ago compared to smartphones today (software-based). Sure, technology and computer hardware eventually become outdated, but updates allow older phones to run on current software, offering new features, better security and more efficient practices. The same goes for telepharmacy software.
The bottom line: telepharmacy software improves with time, while hardware can be cost-prohibitive and become quickly outdated.
Cloud-based vs. server-based technology
Cloud-based applications are all the rage nowadays, and rightly so. But what is the cloud, anyway? The cloud, simply put, refers to software and services that run through the internet instead of being stored on a computer.
Historically, telepharmacies used server-based solutions because it was the best technology available. A server-based solution runs off an internal server that needs to be managed and updated as necessary. Unfortunately, these solutions can require IT staff, and network setups and updates can be very labor-intensive. Ditching internal servers in favor of cloud-based telepharmacy applications has many advantages.
- Cloud-based solutions feature automatic updates and backup services.
- Telepharmacies using a cloud-based solution don’t have to worry about managing an internal server and the struggles that come along with it.
- Cloud-based solutions also provide additional capabilities, such as creating a virtual pharmacy network.
In fact, advanced telepharmacy systems operating in the cloud — like TelePharm — allow you to connect any pharmacist to any pharmacy, creating a virtual network of pharmacists. Cloud-based solutions empower in-network pharmacists to assist with the workload at any pharmacy.
The bottom line: cloud-based solutions are easier to install, require less maintenance and let you focus on the patient instead of the technology.
Image-based workflow vs. live-video workflow
A live-video pharmacy workflow was the basis for early telepharmacy systems, and it requires the technician and the remote pharmacist to both be at their computers at the same time. This can be very disruptive to the workflow at both pharmacies, and it’s just not efficient.
Implementing an image-based pharmacy workflow (or photo documentation) has significantly improved the efficiency and safety of telepharmacy systems.
- Capturing and storing an image of every prescription dispensed at the pharmacy ensures that you have a solid audit log (or audit defense). Image-capture technology enables you to look back through records and identify exactly where an error was made.
- Solutions that use an image-based workflow can also queue the prescriptions, allowing the pharmacist to verify them when they are ready and have no distractions.
The bottom line: an image-based workflow offers complete photo documentation, increased efficiencies and prescription verification without distraction.
We know it's a lot to comprehend, but it’s important to look at all these things when evaluating a solution. The technology selected for your telepharmacy will become an integral part of daily operations, so make sure it will enhance your pharmacy, and not cripple it.
Interested in a telepharmacy software demo?