The digital age has ushered in a wave of innovation with expanded access to a multitude of life-changing advances in medicine for consumers as well as for those who provide healthcare services. It is hard to find a segment of the healthcare system where things have changed more dramatically than in pharmacy and the technology-driven telepharmacy sector. As hospitals, health systems and retail pharmacies struggle under the pressures of controlling cost and improving health outcomes, can telepharmacy services provide measurable advantages?
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons. On the upside, telepharmacy has been shown to deliver a multitude of advantages to both the patient and the pharmacy that include:
Reduced Operating Costs
Hiring additional pharmacists is costly, and hospitals, health systems and retail pharmacies without internal 24/7 pharmacy services face the challenge of affordably providing around-the-clock medication and safety practices. By delivering pharmacy consultations, medication verification and medication guidance remotely, telepharmacy can generate significant savings to the hospital pharmacy.
Increased Operational Efficiency
The right telepharmacy services operate seamlessly as an extension of the pharmacy team and can make changes directly within the patient’s EHR. Telepharmacy services can reduce after-hours drug approval times down to as little as 14-20 minutes, while decreasing the amount of medication errors during the time that pharmacists are on call or understaffed. Additional support can be particularly critical during staff shortages or unexpected surges in volume.
Enhanced Clinical Role for Pharmacists
With telepharmacy providing around-the-clock routine prescription filling, pharmacists can concentrate on patient needs. Pharmacists are able to perform direct patient care services, strengthening clinical quality and improving patient satisfaction and outcomes.
Improved Patient Adherence
By extending pharmacy services into more markets, including rural areas without nearby traditional pharmacy services, more patients pick up and take their prescriptions. When a patient has transitioned home from a hospital stay, telepharmacy teams provide pharmacist-led medication reconciliation, medication counseling at discharge, and post-discharge follow-up calls from a clinical pharmacist, resulting in overall better health outcomes, lower readmissions, lower cost of care and increased patient satisfaction.
Licensed and Compliant
Telepharmacy services must be compliant with Joint Commission Standards, HIPAA regulations and state licensing requirements.
There are some disadvantages that should be on the radar when considering telepharmacy services, such as:
- Geography: Currently only two states, Michigan and Georgia, do not allow remote pharmacist access. Hospitals, health systems and retail pharmacies in the remaining 48 states and Puerto Rico have the green light to tap the advantages of telepharmacy.
- Qualifications: Telepharmacy is complex and requires a team of technology-empowered, licensed and experienced pharmacy experts, so partnering with a telepharmacy provider with the right level of expertise and background is critically important.
- Location: There might be a touch of irony to the fact that telepharmacy is best delivered by a pharmacy team located all in one place, but it is true. It makes a measurable difference having highly qualified pros in one place working together on your behalf, concentrating on your goals and objectives and serving the pharmacy needs of your patients. However, most telepharmacy providers have a workforce that is home-based or working from other remote locations, creating barriers to effective team collaboration.
The American Society of Hospital Pharmacists (ASHP) states: “Appropriately trained and equipped pharmacists can use telepharmacy to remotely oversee pharmacy operations and provide distributive, clinical, analytical and managerial services. ASHP advocates that telepharmacy be applied to suitable functions of pharmacy operations and patient care to improve patient outcomes, expand access to healthcare and enhance patient safety.”
Telepharmacy presents a cost-effective strategy to ensure 24/7 medication order review and verification that significantly improves operations, outcomes and cost of care. For instance, in the first year alone, CPS Telepharmacy clients have experienced more than 30 percent reduction in readmissions while bringing their HCAHPS scores up as much as 13 percent.
To learn more about how CPS Telepharmacy can support your pharmacy operations, visit: