PHARMACY

Telepharmacy is ‘next frontier’ of pharmacy practice

BY DSN STAFF

As community pharmacists take on a greater role in patient care, people living in remote rural areas often are unable to take full advantage of the services these professionals offer.

(Click here to view the full Category Review.)

In an effort to remedy the situation, a handful of pharmacy providers, technology companies and educational institutions have been developing sophisticated telepharmacy systems to ensure that even those living hundreds of miles from the nearest drug store can consult with a pharmacist.

Currently, about half of the states and Washington, D.C., allow telepharmacy, while more than a dozen others states are either considering it or have pending legislation to allow the practice.

“Telepharmacy services produce the same quality as the traditional mode of delivery and provide some value-added features that are not found in traditional pharmacy practice,” said Charles Peterson, dean of the North Dakota College of Pharmacy, Nursing and Allied Sciences and the director of the school’s decade-old ND Telepharmacy Project.

More than 80 pharmacies across North Dakota, and a portion of neighboring Minnesota, offer telepharmacy services, including more than 50 retail pharmacies and nearly nearly 30 hospital pharmacies.

One of the most active drug chains in the project is Thrifty White. The 91-store chain began offering telepharmacy in 2003 with a single site. Since then, it has expanded its effort to include eight sites in North Dakota and Minnesota. Operating in communities with populations of fewer than 1,000, Thrifty White’s telepharmacy sites offer patients the opportunity to video conference with a pharmacist and get medication therapy managment. Prescriptions at the telepharmacy sites are filled by technicians and verified by the consulting pharmacists at the central location.

Pharmacy executives and the providers of the techology behind telemedicine systems say the telehealth services have allowed patients living in these small towns to get a level of care they would not have otherwise been able to receive.

“Telepharmacy represents the next exciting frontier in the practice of pharmacy,” said Mike Coughlin, president and CEO at ScriptPro, one of the first companies to offer telepharmacy systems.

keyboard_arrow_downCOMMENTS

Leave a Reply

No comments found

TRENDING STORIES

POLLS

Which area of the industry do you think Amazon’s entry would shake up the most?
PHARMACY

Patients look to pharmacists for POC testing

BY Richard Monks

With the United States expected to face a growing shortage of primary care physicians over the next decade, support for point-of-care testing in community pharmacies is growing.

(Click here to view the full Category Review.)

“While patients continue to look to their pharmacist as a steward of medication safety and effectiveness, more and more patients are looking to their pharmacists to provide innovative services that further help maintain their health-and-wellness, including point-of-care testing,” National Association of Chain Drug Stores president and CEO Steve Anderson said this spring after the association kicked off its Community Pharmacy-Based Point-of-Care Testing certificate program.

According to a study published last year in the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association, one of the most immediate impacts that point-of-care testing in pharmacies can have is helping prevent and treat such infectious diseases as influenza, group A streptococcal pharyngitis, HIV and hepatitis C.

Proponents of point-of-care testing in pharmacies said providing these services could help ensure a bright future for pharmacies across the country.

“It’s a matter of being prepared to meet the opportunities presented to us,” said Stephanie Klepser, clinical director at the specialty pharmacy Optimed LLC; Michael Klepser, Ferris State University College of Pharmacy professor; and Emily Burley, a PharmD candidate at the school, in a story in the group’s journal Michigan Pharmacist. “A pharmacy work force skilled in physical assessment and use of POC tests, and that is eager to enter in to collaborative disease management programs with physicians, is just what the profession needs.”

However, those pushing for more point-of-care testing in pharmacies admit that there are hurdles to be cleared before testing in pharmacies can become widespread.

Regulations concerning testing vary from state to state and are often vague, experts said. Only eight states address point-of-care testing in their pharmacy practice acts, and only five of those specify which tests pharmacists are allowed to perform.

Data from healthcare researchers suggested, however, that a growing number of community pharmacies are finding ways to offer point-of-care testing. Since 2004, for instance, the number of pharmacies with a certificate to offer services waived under the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988 — including point-of-care testing — has nearly tripled.

keyboard_arrow_downCOMMENTS

Leave a Reply

No comments found

TRENDING STORIES

POLLS

Which area of the industry do you think Amazon’s entry would shake up the most?
PHARMACY

Minorities impacted most by pharmacy deserts

BY DSN STAFF

After so called food deserts — communities that lack access to fresh produce and other healthy foods — led some retailers to develop stores to fill this gap, the existence of a new type of desert with an equally devastating impact on the health of those living there is starting to emerge.

(Click here to view the full Category Review.)

Known as pharmacy deserts, these pockets in some major U.S. cities are characterized by the lack of drug stores, causing residents in these areas to have to travel much farther than others to get prescriptions filled, buy over-the-counter medications or visit the steadily increasing number of urgent care clinics found inside stores.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago, who last year identified the first of these areas, said pharmacy deserts are con tributing to health disparities that jeopardize many people’s well-being. For the most part, they said, those impacted by the dearth of pharmacies are minorities.

While their research focused solely on Chicago, where more than a million people are affected by the lack of pharmacies, the team said it had no doubt that the situation is the same in other areas.

Writing in the journal Health Affairs, the research team led by assistant professor Dima Qato said the emergence of pharmacy deserts poses a potential threat to public health and suggested that governments and the private sector explore ways to remedy the situation.

“Incorporating pharmacies in community health centers is one potential solution,” Qato wrote in an op-ed piece in the online publication Chicago Reporter a few weeks after his findings were published. “Another is to increase governmental oversight in the distribution of pharmacies across communities in the United States.”

In addition, he said, state and federal agencies could require pharmacy organizations to ensure that residents in every neighborhood have access to pharmacies, and the same analysis of local needs that is used to approve the construction of new hospitals should be extended to decisions about where to locate pharmacies.

“To overcome objections about excessive regulation, tax or other market-based incentives might also be used to encourage pharmacies to locate in underserved areas,” Qato said.

keyboard_arrow_downCOMMENTS

Leave a Reply

No comments found

TRENDING STORIES

POLLS

Which area of the industry do you think Amazon’s entry would shake up the most?