Telepharmacy Use Soars

July 30, 2018

More telepharmacies are opening and it appears that they are creating jobs. 

Telepharmacy’s growth has burgeoned in recent years, thanks to its ability to reduce overall healthcare costs and improve outcomes. And it shows no sign of slowing.

Use by chains such as CVS Health and Walgreens- along with hospitals and clinics for follow-up care-telepharmacy is becoming even more prevalent in rural areas.

Related article: Telepharmacy: New Jobs, Expanded Opportunities

For example, Hy-Vee, a regional supermarket chain based in West Des Moines, IA, purchased two telepharmacies in rural communities in Iowa late last year. The telepharmacies are staffed with certified pharmacy technicians-and a pharmacist is on staff 16 hours each month. Pharmacists can counsel patients at the telepharmacies using a tablet or telephone, according to Hy-Vee.

In a keynote address delivered in May at HLTH 2018 (a leading industry event for innovation in healthcare that brings together key stakeholders), Troyen A. Brennan, MD, chief medical officer at CVS Health, discussed the potential for the company to “create a new, unique chassis for population health management.” This could be done by complementing the traditional use of telephonic case management with digitally-gathered information and real medical intelligence, combined with in-person visits to Minute-Clinics and CVS Pharmacies he says. Digitally gathered information would include data collected using devices such as connected glucometers.

“We are looking to narrow the distance between patients in their every-day lives and the caregiving facility by leveraging digital data and making healthcare accessible in convenient community locations,” Brennan says.

Telepharmacy providers such as Comprehensive Pharmacy Services (CPS) are expanding rapidly, and are hiring more pharmacists and pharmacy techs.

“Healthcare is transforming. New expectations on onsite staff have made it difficult to complete all of the clinical and operational expectations required,” Joe Calomo, PharmD, MBA, divisional vice president of telepharmacy for CPS, tells Drug Topics. “On top of this, there has been a shift towards ‘value-based care’, which continues to demand higher quality while com-pressing reimbursements and therefore a drive to reduce costs. Telepharmacy models can help achieve both of these outcomes.”

In a study conducted by CPS in 2015, the use of medication reconciliation and telepharmacy reduced hospital readmission rates for patients who suffered from heart failure, pneumonia, and acute myocardial infarction. The study, in cooperation with JFK Medical Center in Edison, NJ, found a 7% decline in 30-day readmission rates for Medicare patients who had suffered from heart attacks, and a nearly 5% drop in readmission rates for Medicare patients with congestive heart failure.

Related article: Is Telepharmacy Taking Pharmacy Jobs?

CPS has seen such an increasing demand for telepharmacy that it recently expanded that division. It relocated its National Telepharmacy Center from Memphis, TN, to a larger facility in Naperville, IL, and plans to hire around 60 additional pharmacists and 12 pharmacy techs over the next four years.  This is double the staffing it has now that monitors 3 million medication events annually.