Editor’s note: The Pharmacy Podcast Show serves pharmacy businesses, including independent retail, long-term care, specialty, and small chains. During this interview, Greg Janes, Director of Business Development and Marketing, TelePharm, discusses this innovation in pharmacy services. The Iowa City-based company started in 2012. It now operates more than 100 retail pharmacies in nine states. The entire interview is presented here.
Below, Telehealth and Medicine Today has summarized the key points by Mr. Janes during an interview with Todd Eury, Founder and Publisher of Pharmacy Podcast.
Mr. Eury: Let’s start with some background on TelePharm.
Mr. Janes: TelePharm began in 2012, when company founders discovered a way to provide pharmacy services in rural areas without an on-site pharmacist. Using technology, TelePharm has a network of registered pharmacists that interact with pharmacies in smaller, rural communities, spreading out the cost of the pharmacist care.
Mr. Eury: How does telepharmacy work from a technical perspective?
Mr. Janes: A telepharmacy operates like a traditional pharmacy. It follows a brick and mortar store dispensing model where a certified pharmacy technician works under a pharmacist’s supervision to fill prescriptions. The difference is it takes place remotely. Patients are counseled through a live video connection.
Mr. Eury: How can pharmacists incorporate telepharmacy into their existing pharmacies?
Mr. Janes: There is a great opportunity for independents to look at areas where they didn’t think it was possible to provide pharmacy services.
We encourage them to consider telepharmacy for areas where services might be needed but are rural or have other characteristics that might not make it possible to support a traditional pharmacy.
Mr. Eury: Can you give an example?
Mr. Janes: One of our clients works with an Arabic speaking population in the metro Chicago area. Also student health centers are an example of a subset of the population that can be served.
Mr. Eury: Is it legal to practice telepharmacy in every state?
Mr. Janes: It depends on your location. This is something that we and others are working to improve.
As a rule of thumb, for states west of the Mississippi, it’s likely there’s the language and opportunities. If you’re east, more development is needed, but there’s a lot going on and opportunities are available. Anyone interested in learning more should contact their state board directly or contact us through our website.
Mr. Eury: What are some of those common questions or concerns that you get about telepharmacy?
Mr. Janes: Accuracy is an issue. Researchers at North Dakota State University found that the dispensing errors in their telepharmacy are actually lower than in a traditional pharmacy. We find the same thing with the locations we’re involved with. This is because there are more steps in the process—greater documentation and redundant checks. Very detailed audit trails are kept.
Safety is another concern. A lot of program policies, procedures, and protocols are in place in a telepharmacy. It is well developed, and has been in place for almost two decades now.
Another issue is diversion. But with limited formularies and monitoring, inventories are actually tracked more often than in a typical pharmacy. This and other safety protocols and procedures result in a low potential for diversion.
Finally, what happens when the internet goes down? It’s the same as any other pharmacy. Loss of the internet shuts down the service for that time; but we haven’t had major issues with that in any locations.
Mr. Eury: Tell us about Live Oak Bank and telepharmacy.
Mr. Janes: Live Oak Bank is a great resource for those starting to think about telepharmacy. Live Oak Bank can bring their expertise to financing, workflow, how it actually works in practice, etc.