Late Breaking News
Telepharmacy Brings Navy Pharmacists to Remote Sites
WASHINGTON, DC—Navy patients in remote locations are expected to have greater access to pharmacists as a result of a telepharmacy system that the Navy is using.
The Navy is in the midst of deploying Telepharmacy, a system developed by ScriptPro, which allows a pharmacist located in one location to oversee medication dispensing for a patient at a satellite pharmacy. The system enables the pharmacist to view, via video and audio links, the patient’s prescription, the medication to be dispensed, and the file image of the prescribed drug. In addition, the system allows the pharmacist and patient to participate in live patient counseling, even though they are at separate locations.
Navy Lt Cdr Marc Young, a pharmacist who serves as the program manager for the Telepharmacy initiative, said that the system will greatly benefit patients who are in locations where there may be a pharmacist technician, but no pharmacist physically present. “It is very exciting to be able to change how we practice pharmacy. We were the first DoD group to deploy this.”
Connecting Patients to Pharmacists
The Navy turned to the technology in order to meet the Joint Commission’s requirements for prospective pharma-cists’ review of outpatient prescriptions. Young explained that the Navy had looked at the alternative of hiring more pharmacists for the remote areas where it had mostly pharmacist technicians, but realized this would be difficult given a shortage of pharmacists in the US. An evaluation of ScriptPro’s system convinced leaders that this was the way to go because it would allow pharmacists already in place at MTF’s to remotely check prescriptions at locations where there are no pharmacists.
The system allows a pharmacist to view all of the captured images of the medication to be filled. “If it is a tablet or a capsule, the technician can take images of the labels on the bottle and the product in the bottle. The [pharmacist] can ask for more images, and they can check the workflow remotely just as if they were there in person. If the patient requires counseling, or requests counseling, the pharmacist actually has an audio/video dialogue counseling session available for the patients getting prescriptions, and all of this can occur in real time.”
The advantage for the pharmacist technician, who may be at a location where there is not a pharmacist, is that the system provides real time direct oversight by a pharmacist. This allows for a greater variety of therapies to be dispensed.
For a patient visiting a site where the technology is used, it will now allow for a live talk with the pharmacist about their medications. “The technician was the only person for them to talk to about their medications. So this gives them an experience that they didn’t have before, just as if they were going to one of our larger facilities.”
In addition to deploying the system to remote areas that may only have pharmacy technicians, the system will also be useful in areas where there is only a single pharmacist, Young explained. “The pharmacist needs to take vacations so when they are not there, instead of having to bring a staff member to replace them, we are able to remotely continue business.”
Young noted that they wanted to be careful to not overburden pharmacists who are at the support sites connecting to the remote locations. In order to address this they have a calling system in place that will ensure that no single pharmacy will be overburdened with calls from the remote sites when a technician needs a prescription to be checked.
The Navy is planning to deploy the system to 98 locations around the world this year. Young said that there has been much dialogue about the new system within the Navy pharmacy community as they roll out the technology to sites. For some pharmacists it is a paradigm shift, but so far the feedback as been good, according to Young. “The fact that you, or a MTF, had a casual relationship with your three branch clinics and now you will be talking to them in real time every day checking their prescriptions, that takes a little getting used to in some cases.”