Using Technology to Expand Services: THE SATELLITE PHARMACY NETWORK

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28 Apr 2010

In early 2003, during the planning for the initial in-house pharmacy, Thundermist began formulating plans to expand the availability and access of integrated pharmaceutical care to other underserved sectors in the state. To keep costs as low as possible, the organization began to seek nontraditional ways to accomplish this goal. While attending several health care conferences throughout the country, the CEO became familiar with remote dispensing technology, which was being tried at other health centers nationwide.

Telemedicine (providing health care at a distance) was identified as a possible alternative to on-site, full-service pharmacy operations. Telemedicine has been used and studied for a number of years; it encompasses all educational, diagnostic, administrative, and therapeutic services that can be made available by some means of telecommunications technology when providers and patients are at different locations. kamagra tablets

The newest usage of telemedicine is the practice of telepharmacy, in which pharmaceutical care is delivered through telecommunication and information technologies to patients at another site. Preliminary research discovered other locations where telepharmacy solutions were being tried, including sites in Iowa, Michigan, Georgia, Minnesota, and Alabama.

The telepharmacy option offers an alternative to creating other pharmacy facilities staffed by licensed pharmacists on location, as required by law. Plans were formulated to incorporate the telepharmacy technology into a satellite distribution system. This alternative uses a hub-and-spoke system by which Thundermist, acting as the central pharmacy, provides services to the satellite locations. The satellite system allows the provider to dispense prescriptions to patients at remote locations without the need for or cost of having a licensed pharmacist on location.

The goal of Thundermist’s satellite network is to extend the benefits of 340B pricing to more than 22,000 patients statewide. Requests for product specifications to a manufacturer of remote dispensing units were made, and the information was reviewed. canadian pharmacy cialis

In January 2003, a grant application was submitted to HRSA for funding. A condition of the granting authority required Thundermist to establish a comprehensive collaborative network of local health centers to serve medically underserved areas. Alliances with two community health centers were established during the spring of 2003. In the summer of 2003, the grant was approved, and Thundermist ordered dispensing units for each of the medical facilities.

The network provides remote dispensing of a 100-drug formulary using state-of-the-art technology. Patients at the remote sites can talk with a pharmacist in the primary facility via a remote video link. The pharmacist is able to have “face-to-face” discussions with patients before dispensing medication. Using the remote technology, the pharmacist dispenses the drug through a machine, located at each of the remote facilities. A designated staff member hands the drug to the patient at the remote site and then collects any payment due.

The system enables pharmacy-controlled dispensing of initial prescriptions and refills directly at the point of care. When applicable, the system can also capture and forward refills through the mail. Each remote site has a pharmacy workstation, consisting of a standard personal computer, pharmacy software, communication links, a scanner, a printer, and a drug-dispensing system. Minimal space is needed for the system, which Thundermist controls at the central site. The system is able to interface with prescription software, allowing the pharmacist to implement the process from the central pharmacy.

The process for approving and dispensing prescriptions is performed as follows:

1.  Prescriptions are faxed to the central pharmacy.

2.  The pharmacist reviews and approves the prescription.

3.  The pharmacist selects the “dispense” option and indicates the site to which the prescription is to be sent.

4.  A technician uses a biometric fingerprint (password) to access the approved prescription-dispensing queue at the remote site.

5. The prescription is selected from the queue by the technician for release at the point of care.

6.  The system displays detailed patient information for the technician to review and approve before the medication is dispensed.

7.  The technician releases the selected drug from the unit. The system then prompts the point-of-care staff (i.e., the technician) to add a bar code and to check the released drug for accuracy.

8.  The technician checks the drug for accuracy, and the patient label and drug monograph are printed.
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9.  The technician verifies and applies the bar code, and the medication and patient information are delivered.

10. A video connection is established with Thundermist, allowing for a face-to-face patient consultation with the pharmacist (optional). If a video option is not available, the pharmacy technician calls the pharmacist and the patient can speak directly with the pharmacist.


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