Technicians key to telepharmacy success in North Dakota

February 15, 2011

Pharmacy technicians have emerged as key players in the growth of telepharmacy in both inpatient and outpatient settings in areas like North Dakota, which relies heavily on telepharmacy.

Key Points

Pharmacy technicians have emerged as key players in the growth of telepharmacy in both inpatient and outpatient settings. That's the view from North Dakota, which relies heavily on telepharmacy to bring pharmacy services to communities and hospitals that don't have a pharmacist.

"Telepharmacy would never have been as successful as it has been without technicians," said Barbara E. Lacher, BS, RPh Tech, CPhT, assistant program director, pharmacy technician program, and associate professor, North Dakota State College of Science. "Techs are key to everything we do."

The college regularly updates its tech training program to reflect current practice needs. One of the latest curriculum updates is additional information on over-the-counter medications. That helps techs answer basic patient questions and, more importantly, helps techs recognize when to bring the pharmacist into the loop. More education makes techs more effective, especially in telepharmacy sites where the pharmacist isn't in the next room.

Only the beginning

Pharmacy chains are using technicians to provide patient services by telephone, Corrigan said. The military is using telepharmacy to dispense around the world. Hospitals are using telepharmacy in sterile prep rooms and across large campus settings. Technicians are the common element keeping all these systems working.

"Pharmacy techs are the people at the actual remote site," said National Pharmacy Technician Association Chairman and CEO Mike Johnston, CPhT. "The telepharmacy role is very different from working as a tech in a traditional setting. You don't have the in-person supervision. Telepharmacy techs are more independent and need to be better trained."