The first test store in Des Plaines could be just the start.
Kmart Pharmacy has opened its first telepharmacy at its location in Des Plaines, IL. Although it is currently a hybrid model telepharmacy-with a clinical pharmacist on duty part of the day-it will convert to a remote dispensing pharmacy in the near future, according to Jennifer Speares Lehman, RPh, Kmart Pharmacy’s Senior Director of Compliance and Administration.
The off-site Kmart pharmacist, working with a certified pharmacy technician on-site, performs the same quality checks and, when necessary, can speak with patients located at the Des Plaines store using video chat on a handheld tablet, according to a company statement.
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Currently, the Des Plaines location is a hybrid form of a telepharmacy. There is a pharmacist on duty in the pharmacy in the morning, Speares said. But from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. the pharmacy operates as a telepharmacy with a certified pharmacy tech and technology that connects to a pharmacist located in the over-seeing pharmacy in Norridge, IL. The part-time nature of the telepharmacy is serving as a pilot to ensure that the system works well, she explained. In a few weeks, the location will convert to a full-time telepharmacy. A clinical pharmacist will stop by once a week to run a pop-up clinic for scheduled patient consultations or vaccinations, she said.
There have been no problems since the system began operation several weeks ago, Speares said. “It actually is amazing. It is running very smoothly.” said Speares. Feedback from patients has been very good, she added. “They feel that it is even more personal.”
The quality of telepharmacy depends on the caliber of the pharmacy technicians that staff them, Speares said. “We are so fortunate that we have wonderful pharmacy technicians running the pharmacy.”
Des Plaines is the test, Speares said. Kmart Pharmacy plans to convert two to three more pharmacies to the full telepharmacy model within the next six months. They are planning on opening another telepharmacy in Illinois and one each in Idaho and South Dakota, she said. There will be more opening within 12 months, she added.
“We are looking at more locations, but the legislation for telepharmacy is very new,” she noted. “We work daily with the respective boards of pharmacy to do each of these sites.”
The chain is working with boards of pharmacy across the country to discuss the rules governing telepharmacy. Some states either do not allow any telepharmacy operations or have regulations that limit its use, she noted. In some states, an over-seeing pharmacy can connect to only one telepharmacy, but others allow one pharmacy to oversee several telepharmacies.
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Many state regulations concerning telepharmacy are brand new. “Illinois has wonderful rules that are clear and well thought out. We know where we stand for telepharmacy just by looking at regulations.”
Other states have legislation that can be vague, Speares noted. “A lot of it is up for interpretation.”
Kmart Pharmacy employs roughly 900 pharmacists and 600 pharmacy techs in 292 pharmacies, Speares said. Kmart closed 92 stores in April, which included some stores with pharmacies.