Technology Shaping Healthcare: Telepharmacies

A new structure of pharmacies has begun to spread across the United States. The Model State Pharmacy Act written by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy describes telepharmacies as providing “Pharmacist Care by registered Pharmacies and Pharmacists located within US jurisdictions through the use of telecommunications or other technologies to patients or their agents at distances that are located within US jurisdictions”. These small kiosk-like pharmacies are usually based in rural areas that could not otherwise sustain a fully operating pharmacy. Often, the most expensive part of a traditional pharmacy is employing the pharmacist. In contrast, telepharmacies are staffed by pharmacy technicians who communicate electronically with a pharmacist at another main pharmacy location. While pharmacy technicians do not have the training to discuss patient care—such as dosage and alternative medicines—with the patients, patients can consult with the remote pharmacist through electronic video conferencing. Both the business model and technology of telepharmacies offer a wide range of opportunities for healthcare providers.

Telepharmacies began in North Dakota in 2001 after North Dakota faced an increasing problem of closing pharmacies. Since then, over 20 states have implemented procedures allowing telepharmacies. States that allow telepharmacies have legislated on aspects such as geographical restrictions, pharmacist-to-technicians ratios, and security of the patient’s health information. Currently, Louisiana has not approved the use of telepharmacies.

 

Written by: Danielle L. Borel

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