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Tele-Pharmacy Advantages and Disadvantages

Posted Jul 12 2010 8:30am

Tele-pharmacy has been defined by The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy as “the provision of pharmaceutical care through the use of telecommunications and information technologies to patients at a distance.Tele-pharmacy is a new concept that is emerging to provide pharmacies in remote areas where regular pharmacies are difficult to find.

How it Works

A Tele-pharmacy dispenses medicine to the patient after the prescription of the patient has been processed by a registered pharmacist from home or from another pharmacy location. The tele-pharmacy is equipped with video cameras so that the pharmacy technician can be supervised by a registered pharmacist. The location of the remote pharmacy is often linked to central pharmacy software to make this process smother and ensure timely and correct delivery.

Advantages And Disadvantages Of A Tele-Pharmacy

This concept for delivering medicines through a tele-pharmacy is being tested for operation in remote areas as well as in emergency and urgent care facilities. The main aim of tele-pharmacies is to provide maximum coverage in areas with few pharmacies and increase the revenue for pharmacy operators.

The major advantage of a tele-pharmacy is that it provides the much-needed consultation for patients living in remote areas. In the absence of any pharmacy in these areas, patients lose access to vital health care services, which leads to medication errors, drug overdose, and adverse reactions due to multiple drug interactions. Even though pharmacists are not physically present in their area, patients can access consultation with a registered pharmacist and get their prescription verified through video conferencing.

The second advantage of a tele-pharmacy is that it is highly cost-effective. With the rising pay scale of pharmacists, it might not be financially viable to support a full pharmacy in all rural areas. Thus hiring a single pharmacist for multiple areas can save the pharmacy thousands of dollars each year.

The third advantage is customer satisfaction, especially people living in remote areas. Earlier, these patients had no access to a pharmacy near them and could not afford the medication from other areas.

The main disadvantage of a tele-pharmacy lies in the lack of complete control in dispensing medications for the patients. Although the pharmacy technicians at these pharmacies are supervised by a registered pharmacist at all times, there is still the risk of violation of regulations. The use of unauthorized drugs or dispensing of drugs without proper prescription is hard to control compared to regular pharmacies.

Another factor that is proving to be a hurdle in promoting more tele-pharmacies is that most places in the United States have not yet adapted to the concept of tele-pharmacies. It will be a challenging and time-consuming task to review the laws and set up rules and regulations for tele-pharmacy operations in all the states in the coming years.

Points To Consider Before Setting Up A Tele-Pharmacy

Setting up a tele-pharmacy is different from setting up regular pharmacies or drug stores.  It has to function under the laws of the state, and a license program must be in place. Second, trained pharmacy technicians have to be hired who are aware of the rules and regulations. Third, the inventory has to be adequately managed to make sure that while the vital medications are in stock, the pharmacy is not overstocked with drugs that are not much in demand.

The need of a tele-pharmacy in a particular area has to be first established. Physicians and other medical workers have to be notified of the availability of these services to make sure it is fully utilized.

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