This extends beyond healthcare provision. In the pharmacy world, telehealth can help pharmacists build stronger relationships with both patients and doctors, and extend the care a pharmacist can provide.
All of this adds up to patients getting the medicine and advice they need when they need it.
So, how exactly does telepharmacy and telehealth result in better outcomes for patients, doctors, and pharmacists?
Helping Patients Get Prescriptions
TelePharm cites the growth in community-level pharmaceutical access as one of the greatest successes in the industry. In the two years before Telepharm was founded in Iowa in 2012, 46 pharmacies closed in the state. In that period, 220,000 Iowans lost access to a convenient place for filling prescriptions. Empowering rural pharmacies to run remotely, via telepharmacy, has made a huge difference.
Almost a third of prescriptions go unfilled in this country, pharmacist and attorney Edward D. Rickert writes at Inside Counsel. One of the biggest factors is access. Elderly patients who cannot drive themselves 12 miles to the next town cannot get the medication they need.
Helping Pharmacists Get More Involved in Day-to-Day Care
The American Pharmacist Association sees an exciting future for integrating pharmacists into the telehealth space. Pharmacists will work alongside doctors and patients to provide:
- medication therapy management
- patient counselling
- prior authorizations for treatment plans
- checking and dispensing of medication
Accessibility is essential, and it’s one of the fastest growing areas.
Providing Much Better Accessibility to Patients
Pharmacies including CVS, Walgreens, and RiteAid are all investing substantially in the technology. The big pharmacies are approaching this in slightly different ways:
- CVS is expanding telehealth services at its in-store clinics. (Medscape)
- Walgreens is incorporating services via its mobile app.(Walgreens news)
- RiteAid is using in-store kiosks to provide expert pharmacist advice. (Dark Daily)
Other retailers with embedded pharmacies are finding success with the technology, too. Grocery store, Wegmans, is introducing its telehealth program. Health Populi explains “This program will enable shopper-patients to visit the Wegmans store pharmacy for an online visit with a board-certified doctor or psychologist between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m., using their computer, smartphone, tablet, or the pharmacy’s kiosk.“
Helping Doctors Monitor Drug Administration
When a doctor sees a new patient, she can consult in real time with that patient’s pharmacist, giving the pharmacist and doctor the opportunity to discuss current and future medications and doses.
“In the emergency room, real-time access to inpatient, mail order, and retail prescription claim data can be made available to pharmacists and accessible through tablet technology,” Todd Sloane writes at Hospitals & Health Networks. “This ensures that physicians are aware of all medication regimens the patient may be on and can factor that information into the diagnosis and treatment.”
Comprehensive Pharmacy Service has a telepharmacy division that helps connect its services to the 550-plus hospitals and clinics it works with. The company told a Chicago Tribune community contributor in November 2015 that on a typical day its telehealth-facilitated interventions catch:
- 369 episodes of giving the wrong drug to the wrong patient,
- 554 issues involving a patient’s allergy to a medication,
- and nearly 1600 duplicate prescriptions.
Telehealth is delivering real results. Here are a couple of good examples:
Improving Outcomes for Cancer Patients
Telehealth is improving lives across many different diseases and treatment types, but it hasn’t had much uptake yet in the treatment of cancer. That’s changing — Yale New Haven’s Smilow Cancer Center created a telepharmacy program for cancer patients. So far, it’s succeeded in:
- Getting medications to patients more quickly
- Enhancing the safety of patients — it won a patient safety award in 2014
- Making better use of a pharmacist's time so they can see more patients
The hope is that their telehealth network will improve the speed, quality, and range of options available to treat cancer.
Helping People with Diabetes
Telepharmacy is also providing measurably better patient outcomes. Pharmacotherapy published an article on the results of treatment of diabetes via telehealth. After attending a clinical video telehealth program for six months:
- Patients had their blood glucose levels fall by 2% (the A1C test).
- The percentage of patients reaching their goal blood glucose levels increased from 0% to 38%.
- Median patient satisfaction scores were 39.5 out of 40.
Telehealth and telepharmacy are making it easier for doctors, patients, and pharmacists to work together, resulting in much better patient outcomes, more controlled drug administration, and greater accessibility to vital services.