By Cory Swymer, Vice President of Remote Pharmacy Services

A well-run remote pharmacy inside a hospital can increase patient safety and the continuity of care by ensuring orders are reviewed by a pharmacist before reaching the patient, even when the on-site hospital pharmacy is closed.

Remote pharmacy services (RPS) are especially important – and cost-effective – for small and mid-sized hospitals that may not have 24-hour onsite pharmacy services. RPS is a way to bridge that gap, and it can also be used to achieve workload balance between pharmacists and shifts, as well as between facilities. RPS can be used to free up valuable pharmacist time to work on new initiatives by shifting duties to the remote staff.

As a result, RPS can increase hospital staff satisfaction, reduce the number of medication errors and improve patient care, all while keeping compliant with The Joint Commission’s standards, HIPPAA regulations and state licensure requirements.

Models of RPS

Remote pharmacy services can be incorporated into a healthcare system via an external or internal model.

External models focus on contracted services with an outside company to provide a full suite of remote pharmacy services.

Internal models of RPS rely on additional employees that can be added remotely to take on the workload. Employees may be allocated to or from different shifts or even other facilities owned by the health system.

Benefits of RPS

There are many needs that can be filled with remote pharmacy services, including:

After-Hours Coverage

Remote pharmacists can monitor and process orders when the pharmacy closes, either intermittently, at different times of the evening, night and early morning, or continually for 100% coverage while the onsite pharmacy is closed. Daytime remote can add coverage and peace of mind to add workload support for increased census, special projects, go-live initiatives with software changes or upgrades, and more. It can also help in the event of a staff shortage or call-out.

Daily Monitoring and Reviews

You can also use remote services for daily clinical monitoring and profile reviews. The pharmacists can check for new admissions, new orders on existing patients, renal and hepatic function monitoring, clinical dosing, anticoagulant monitoring, lab value monitoring, pharmacokinetics, VTE prophylaxis, etc.

Program Enhancement

Antibiotic Stewardship programs and Oncology programs can greatly benefit from RPS. RPS can also perform medication reconciliation services for your facility. Lastly, remote patient monitoring for your ambulatory care clinics is an extremely useful tool to improve patient incomes and often the bottom line of your facility.

Where to Start with RPS

There are many things you have to consider when planning to implement remote pharmacy services at your facility. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Model and Services: Thinking back to the models and the services mentioned, what is right for you and your facility?

Vendor Selection: If you choose an external RPS, make sure you carefully vet your options. Obtain at least three quotes with demos from the top vendors in the marketplace. Look at price, but you will have to look at quality and reputation as well. If you have a vendor offering services for half the cost of another vendor, there is likely a reason for that discrepancy in price.

Regulatory Considerations: State regulations and requirements for RPS vary widely. Make sure you know the rules in your state. Sometimes, special policies, licenses, registrations or other permissions are required before you can begin services.

QA and Safety: Whether you are using an internal or an external service, ensure that your RPS quality matches your onsite quality. Make sure all patient safety measures are being followed, as they would be onsite. Also, ensure there are methods in place for medication errors and ADRs reporting.

Training: A strong solid training plan is a must for the remote staff, as they will be responsible for OE in the same manner as your onsite staff.

Access to Information: All information needed onsite will also be needed remotely. This includes P&P access, EHR, ADM and labs.

Cyber Security: Accessing HIPAA data from home brings its own set of challenges. You must ensure minimum requirements are met in the home office environment.

Communication: Abundant and secure communication are critical during the ROE process, at shift change, etc. Define a good, preferred method for communicating clinical and technical issues. You can even share all communication to your onsite staff with your remote team.

If you’d like to learn more about how remote pharmacy services could support your facility, feel free to reach out to me at swymerc@pharmdondemand.com.