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Pharmacy Technicians: The Changing Role in Telepharmacy

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Advancements in technology are constant; the same is true with pharmacies

When it comes to what’s possible with telepharmacy, we’re at the tip of the iceberg. Telepharmacy can be useful in many healthcare organizations, including pharmacies, hospitals, retail medical clinics, long-term care centers, mental health facilities and more. As a result, the role of pharmacy technicians is rapidly evolving, especially in the cases of remote-dispensing sites and retail spaces that improve access to care for thousands of underserved patients across the country.

Many residents, in both urban and rural settings, are living in “pharmacy deserts.” Coined by Dr. Dima Qato, assistant professor in the department of pharmacy systems, outcomes, and policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago, an urban pharmacy desert is described as “a low-income community or neighborhood with no pharmacy within a half-mile for those with limited vehicle access.” In this piece, we will discuss how technology and the changing role of the pharmacy technician are working to positively impact these communities and neighborhoods.

Pharmacy technicians are an essential part of remote-dispensing sites.

North Dakota State University pioneered telepharmacy in America as a way to provide healthcare access to patients in rural pharmacy deserts. Conveniently located telepharmacies prevent patients from traveling long distances to acquire prescription medication. Today, pharmacy owners continue to open licensed brick-and-mortar telepharmacies, staffed by on-site pharmacy technicians, to serve patients in small communities like Zearing, Iowa. Remote-dispensing sites are also providing care to those in urban pharmacy deserts like parts of Chicago, Illinois.

Potential Impact of Telepharmacy

Telepharmacy can help improve patient education and produce better health outcomes, and may even help increase medication adherence rates.

Staffed by one or more certified pharmacy technicians, retail telepharmacies are typically lower-volume stores. Pharmacy technicians physically prepare the prescription for dispensing by sending high-quality images of the prescription, medication label, physical drug and medication bottle to a remote pharmacist for review.

If approved, the technician places the filledprescription in will-call pending live-video consultation from the pharmacist. Telepharmacy often, as in this example, requires a higher level of technical knowledge from pharmacy technicians than a traditional pharmacy does.

In rural areas, telepharmacies are becoming “health hubs,” as pharmacists can do so much more than just dispense medication. In addition, telepharmacy technology can be used to help provide 24-hour pharmacist coverage in critical access hospitals (CAHs) across the country. A telepharmacy provides all the care and services of a traditional pharmacy, and can operate in areas where a traditional pharmacy is not feasible.

Telepharmacy can help improve patient education and produce better health outcomes, and may even help increase medication adherence rates. The pharmacist is an invaluable resource on the healthcare team, and telepharmacy is the champion that can help them be more efficient, effective and take better care of their patients. In the future, technicians may be called upon to expand their role, and those who have advanced skills could have more opportunity for a variety of jobs.

References

  1. Schladetzky, Zach, Telepharm.com, The 4 different types of telepharmacy
  2. Telepharmacy.com, Zearing, Iowa: Reviving a Town in More Ways Than One

 

 

 

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