Resources for Getting Started with Telepharmacy

Drug Topics JournalDrug Topics April 2019
Volume 163
Issue 4

Like the idea of telpharmacy and not sure where to start? 

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The Minnesota Pharmacists Association, among others, has how-to-get-started webinars and online educational materials, although access may be restricted to members or lie behind paywalls.  

APhA has a four-part online CE program, The Role of the Telehealth Pharmacist, that defines different telehealth settings, explores the current technologies, discusses communication issues and lays out common regulatory considerations. Modules are free to nonmembers as well as to APhA members.

North Dakota State University, which helped launch the first telepharmacy pilot, has resources for community pharmacists, hospitals, and communities as well as a how-to guide and publications.

Telepharm, a Cardinal Health subsidiary, offers a variety of online information, tutorials, and state-specific information for different types of practice sites. 

PipelineRx, which focuses on community hospitals, health systems and specialized care settings, has case studies, programs and solutions.

The first stop in building a telepharmacy is usually the state board of pharmacy. About two-thirds of states have some sort of telepharmacy regulation or legislation in place, but the requirements vary widely. State pharmacy associations can be another useful entry point, but early conversations with your state board are essential.

Because telepharmacy needs vary widely from location to location, many pharmacists need variances or waivers to current telepharmacy regulations. State associations can often provide advice and support for the waiver process. Most state boards have a standard request form, and board surveyors may be available to discuss your variance needs before making a formal request.

Read more: Telepharmacy's New Fronteirs Expand Business Opportunities

Choose a type of location, whether it is a free-standing operation or part of some other medical space such as a clinic or another retail operation like a grocery store. Some states require telepharmacies to dispense from a medical facility while other states offer greater flexibility in location.

A telepharmacy is as much an independent business as a brick-and-mortar pharmacy and needs its own business plan. While financial specifics differ, 30 to 45 scripts per day seems to be the accepted break-even point. The business basics are no different from any pharmacy: acquiring the physical space; staffing, inventory and licensing costs; DEA registration if you plan to stock controlled substances; technology installation, operation and maintenance; wholesaler and payer contracts for the new location; insurance; advertising; staff scheduling and training; managing script deliveries, and so on. The biggest difference is coordinating pharmacist time at the main or hub pharmacy with open hours at the telepharmacy-most states require a remote pharmacist be available for prescription review and patient consultation whenever a telepharmacy is open.

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