Insights - Article

The Telepharmacy Advantage: A Pharmacist’s Point of View

By Leah Sheffer, PharmD • July 26, 2016

A four-year-old arrives in an emergency room with multiple fractures resulting from a car accident following a 45-minute ambulance ride to the nearest hospital. By the time the ambulance arrives, the inpatient pharmacy is closed and the physician on duty has questions regarding the recommended pediatric dosing of pain medications.

Meanwhile, across the country in a city, a patient arrives at another emergency room having seizures following a heroin overdose. The physician is able to control the seizures acutely, but would like a long acting recommendation that would be appropriate given consideration to the toxicology report. However, the pharmacy at his facility has also closed for the evening.

Expanding Telepharmacy Applications — From Rural Towns to Cities

The solution for both of these patients is a consultation with the same off-site telepharmacist team via telephone, shared electronic patient records and pharmacy information systems.

The remote order entry verification aspect of telepharmacy was originally associated with the intent to provide pharmacy services to rural areas where access to trained and specialized staff was limited. However, telepharmacy has evolved and is currently a solution to facilities nationwide as the technology has improved and optimizing cost efficiency has become increasingly important.

Diversification of Staff and Experience Yields Better Outcomes

One of the most profound benefits of consulting with a telepharmacy team is the diversification of staff and experience. Many of the pharmacists working together have extensive training in different specialties from a variety of locations and pharmacy schools. Telepharmacy itself provides a unique educational opportunity.

I spoke with a pharmacist on our team here at PipelineRx.  Lacey Steele, PharmD, BCPS, says “Working as a telepharmacist has given me such a broad perspective on the trends in pharmacy. I am exposed to the best practices of multiple facilities across the nation which gives me more confidence in my recommendations and the improvement of patient care.”

Exposure to Multiple Pharmacy Systems Provides Inside Knowledge

Technology is also appealing to many pharmacists and facilities using telepharmacy services. The number of pharmacy information systems (PIS) available to facilities continues to grow.  Pharmacists get hands on experience with multiple pharmacy information systems’ usage and application. Not only do they identify the differences between vendor options, but also between individual builds of the same system. This knowledge is communicated in the training of the pharmacy staff to identify where the potential for an error to reach a patient might occur.

Hospital regulations are becoming more stringent and the demands on the staff are increasing while resources are being constrained.  Another PipelineRx pharmacist Phuonglinh Morsches, PharmD, BCPS, says, “What I enjoy most about being a telepharmacist is the exposure that I have of systems and the technology. I have identified multiple successes and challenges of different systems and policies. I am able to make recommendations based on first-hand experience and not hypothetical simulations. I feel this knowledge optimally prepares for the future of pharmacy.”

Leah Sheffer, PharmD is Central Region Training Manager and MEDITECH PIS Specialist at PipelineRx.  A graduate of the University of Florida, she has over 13 years of experience as a Neuroscience Critical Care pharmacist and pharmacy manager in the hospital, industry, academic, community, and tropical medicine settings.  Leveraging an IT background, she is also trained on 25 different Pharmacy Information Systems.