Experts say telepharmacy solutions can be a win for pharmacies and pharmacists.
Chesler said a common misconception—one he held before learning about the industry— is that telepharmacy takes jobs away from pharmacists. The reality, he said, is that telepharmacy actually creates more opportunities for pharmacists in areas that never would have been able to fully support a pharmacist before.
“Every time we can add a telepharmacy to these towns, it creates part of a job for a pharmacist. It allows them to have those scripts, it allows them to reach into those communities,” he said. “Every patient who improves adherence—improves the number of prescriptions that are filled—each one improves the number of pharmacists who are needed.”
Chesler pointed to the success of the North Dakota Telepharmacy Project, a joint initiative by the North Dakota State University (NDSU) College of Pharmacy, Nursing, and Allied Sciences; the North Dakota Board of Pharmacy; and the North Dakota Pharmacists Association. It includes 81 pharmacies across the state: 25 central pharmacy sites and 56 remote telepharmacy sites.
According to NDSU, the project has added approximately $26.5 million in economic development and between 80 and 100 new jobs in the state.
Chesler said telepharmacies are also growing in urban areas where there are low rates of vehicle ownership.
Ken Kester, PharmD, JD, Director of Remote Pharmacy for CHI Virtual Health, said he believes telepharmacy has also added jobs for hospital pharmacists. He has seen remote pharmacists work with hospitals in two ways: either offering additional support for smaller hospitals or handling routine tasks at larger facilities.
The most common of these two models is using telepharmacy to support small hospitals, which either don’t have a pharmacist or don’t have round-the-clock coverage.
“They go from having no pharmacist at times to having 24/7 pharmacist coverage, so certainly that’s added jobs,” he said.
Kester said as recently as ten to twelve years ago, many hospitals hadn’t even heard of the concept of telepharmacy. But recent surveys now show most small hospitals now use telepharmacy routinely.
The other model, although not as extensive, is used by larger hospitals that turn to remote pharmacists to support order entry and verification. This frees staff pharmacists up to perform more clinical tasks and activities.