Advanced technology in the hospital is becoming more common with the advent of tools including electronic health records, e-prescribing, and big data analytics programs. Beyond adding to the responsibilities of hospital IT professionals, these technologies are changing the roles of some pharmacists by creating a new way to service patients.
One important innovation, telepharmacy—as highlighted in an article in Pharmacy Practice News—is being incorporated into hospitals as a way to offer necessary pharmacy services, including consultations and order verification, while freeing up on-site pharmacy staff to play a larger role in clinical care.
Stemming from some of the technology previously mentioned, telepharmacy is becoming a viable option for hospitals looking to offer extended services. Under the umbrella of telehealth, telepharmacy utilizes a remote pharmacist who is able to access the hospital’s network and EHR, and perform tasks such as medication verification and counseling, discharge planning, and medication reconciliation. Often, telepharmacists are used to fill night and weekend coverage in rural areas that may not have access to 24/7 local clinical care.
Benefits of Telepharmacy
For hospitals looking to take advantage of the value pharmacists can provide in research and clinical care, telepharmacy serves as a way to get on-site pharmacists out of the basement. Telepharmacy can be an affordable option for hospitals that want to further involve their pharmacists in patient care without the burden of hiring additional personnel. In addition, using telepharmacists offers assurance to physicians that someone will be available to review their scripts 24/7. With telepharmacists able to monitor up to six hospitals at one time, facilities can save money by dividing a telepharmacist’s salary. For pharmacists, telepharmacy offers the opportunity to work from home in a secure HIPAA environment.
Value of Pharmacists in Clinical Care
Current reimbursement structures have resulted in hospitals placing a greater emphasis on improving long-term patient outcomes. Whether reducing readmissions, improving patient experience, or preventing medical errors, pharmacists are central to hospital success in an outcomes-based economy.
Recent studies have reaffirmed the value pharmacists can bring to hospitals when involved in patient care. Examples include helping to counsel patients about medications before they leave the hospital, participating in antibiotic stewardship programs with other providers to ensure the right prescription is given, and conducting post-discharge interviews with patients to reduce readmissions.
Hospitals are constantly being asked to “do more with less,” but still provide excellent patient care. Leveraging on-site pharmacists is essential to accomplish this unofficial mandate, and stay financially viable in an outcomes-based market. As additional studies continue to showcase the value of incorporating pharmacists into patient-facing activities, programs like telepharmacy will only grow in popularity.