Telepharmacy Services Can Help Pharmacists Streamline Workflows, Improve Patient Outcomes

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Pacience Edwards, PharmD, manager of compliance at Outcomes, discussed how technological solutions can aid pharmacies during a session at the Outcomes 2024 SYNC National Conference in Orlando, Florida.

The COVID-19 pandemic changed the health care landscape both directly and indirectly in many ways. Although the public health crisis led to a significant amount of burnout among health care workers and put more pressure on an already overburdened system, the increased utilization of telehealth services was seen by many as a positive outcome.

Pharmacist communicating with a patient on the computer / NIKCOA - stock.adobe.com

Pharmacist communicating with a patient on the computer / NIKCOA - stock.adobe.com

Due to a lack of access brought on by COVID-19, telehealth services in the US increased by 154% during the early phases of the pandemic and then eventually stabilized at levels 38 times higher compared to those in 2019.1 This has led to many benefits for both patients and providers, such as improving access to care and reducing resources used in health care facilities.2

During the Outcomes 2024 SYNC National Conference, Pacience Edwards, PharmD, manager of compliance at Outcomes, discussed during a session titled “Revolutionizing Pharmacy Practice: Advancing a New Paradigm” the need for innovation in the pharmacy field and how the use of telepharmacy services could help streamline workflows.3

“We hear all too frequently [about] the increased pressure on pharmacy, between all of the challenges with workforce, as well as the increased demand for pharmacy services,” Edwards said. “In healthcare in general, we're seeing an increasing need for alternative delivery of care. We're also constantly facing that constant decrease in reimbursement rates. Although we are facing those pressures, there are a large number of opportunities for pharmacy.”

Edwards noted that industry opportunities for pharmacy include technological advancements, patient centered care, medically underserved areas, and proven safety and efficiency of current technologies. Telepharmacy—defined by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy as the provision of pharmaceutical care through the use of telecommunications and information technologies to patients at a distance—can aid in those opportunities.

Telepharmacy services include things like remote dispensing, prescription lockers for individual prescriptions, kiosks for dispensing prescriptions, and remote counseling. Remote dispensing, which is one of the most prevalent options for pharmacists, allows them to provide supervision, verify prescriptions, and counsel patients without changing the scope of practice.

READ MORE: Implementing Technological Workflow May Usher in New Era of Pharmacy

“[Remote dispensing] really helps us be able to serve those that need access to care,” Edwards said. “Areas that are medically underserved, whether that be rural areas, or densely populated areas that are pharmacy deserts, have huge numbers of patients that need access to care. Remote dispensing allows us to help move that forward.”

Technology assisted final verification can also help improve the pharmacy workflow. Technology assisted final verification is a process which allows a pharmacist in a different location to use images of a final prescription product and photos from the filling process to complete the final product verification. This helps to streamline the process by allowing pharmacists to be located in more than 1 location and verify products on a screen rather than having to handle the actual physical prescription.

However, there are some barriers and limitations with technology assisted final verification that are worth mentioning. These include a lack of in-person interaction, regulations varying among states, having to train staff, safety issues, an increased potential for data breaches that can put patient privacy at risk, and the high cost of technology needed for the process.

Edwards said that these technological solutions can also prevent burnout among pharmacists—an issue that was severely exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a systematic review published in 2022 in the International Journal of Clinical Pharmacy, 51% of pharmacists reported experiencing burnout.4 Technological solutions can also help pharmacists practice at the top of their education and training by freeing up more time to preform clinical services, such as vaccinations.

“With continual technological advances, we're able to really focus on patient centered care so that we can practice at the top of our license while also improving patient outcomes,” Edwards concluded. “Also, we can help serve those in medically underserved areas and really focus on their needs and provide care for those patients.”

“By utilizing remote dispensing and technology assisted final verification, pharmacists are able to spend less time on tasks that can be delegated,” Edwards added. “In doing so, their efficacy is maximized.”

References
1. Andino JJ, Eyrich NW, Boxer RJ. Overview of telehealth in the United States since the COVID-19 public health emergency: a narrative review. Mhealth. 2023;9:26. Published 2023 Jul 15. doi:10.21037/mhealth-23-15
2. Bouabida K, Lebouché B, Pomey MP. Telehealth and COVID-19 Pandemic: An Overview of the Telehealth Use, Advantages, Challenges, and Opportunities during COVID-19 Pandemic. Healthcare (Basel). 2022;10(11):2293. Published 2022 Nov 16. doi:10.3390/healthcare10112293
3. Edwards P. Revolutionizing Pharmacy Practice: Advancing a New Paradigm. Presented at: Outcomes 2024 SYNC National Conference; February 22-24, 2024; Orlando, FL.
4. Dee J, Dhuhaibawi N, Hayden JC. A systematic review and pooled prevalence of burnout in pharmacists. Int J Clin Pharm. 2023;45(5):1027-1036. doi:10.1007/s11096-022-01520-6
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