The challenge of 24/7 pharmacy coverage, which includes nighttime hours, weekends, and of course, holidays, confronts large and small hospitals alike, and for both can be a scheduling nightmare.
In 2011, a small rural community hospital took the bold step of staffing its pharmacy from 9:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. with a remote telepharmacy solution provided by PipelineRx. This business approach, modeled after other telemedicine solutions such as teleradiology, uses home-based pharmacists working in a HIPAA-secure environment to verify and approve computerized provider order entry (CPOE) orders, which they obtain through the electronic medical record (EMR) by means of a virtual private network.
Four years later, Scott Burns, director of pharmacy at Rome Memorial Hospital, Rome, N.Y., believes the decision was the right one for this 130-bed facility. The greatest benefits, he said, have included being able to ensure that the EMR is accurate at all times, saving money through use of an outsourced pharmacy model, and keeping a consistent pharmacy staff that physicians and nurses are comfortable with.
If your health system is considering a remote staffing model like PipelineRx, one of the most important tasks is to make sure that your policies and procedures manual is up to date and ready for you to share with the remote pharmacists.
Burns explained that every community hospital operates differently, so it is important that the telepharmacy staff have a clear understanding of expectations. Be sure to review your policies and procedures carefully and make any necessary updates in your manual. This will ensure that the telepharmacy staff is set up for success, he said.
“At the end of the day, my biggest issue [with telepharmacy] was from the medical staff perspective, that there should be very little disconnect. They should not necessarily even know that there was a telepharmacist taking care of their orders, vs. a pharmacist on site,” Burns told Drug Topics.
Turnaround and intervention
“We have noted over 20 types of interventions the [PipelineRx telepharmacists] do, such as with drug-drug interactions, drug allergy, or dosing changes. Also included are switching from a brand drug to a generic and moving an expensive IV drug to an oral drug. This brings value back to the hospital in terms of safety and cost savings,” Roberts said. “Without interruptions like a question from a nurse or the phone ringing, the telepharmacists can more quickly verify orders [than the in-house pharmacists can].”