Telehealth basics for pharmacists during COVID-19 and beyond

Health experts can agree that one of the silver linings of the COVID-19 pandemic is the way it has propelled telehealth forward. Like many other health professionals, some pharmacists have had to make a quick transition to telehealth.

Telehealth is a broad term and refers to an array of remote health care services, which can include clinical services but also nonclinical services, monitoring vitals, health education, and more. Telemedicine comes under telehealth, but it refers to remote clinical services. Typically, telemedicine services are administered by physicians, while telehealth can be provided by a wide range of health care professionals, “such as nurses, pharmacists, and others,” according to the World Health Organization. Telepharmacy is the delivery of pharmacy care via telecommunication to patients in locations where they may not have direct contact with a pharmacist. Just like telemedicine has been essential during the COVID-19 crisis, the same can be said for telepharmacy.

An analysis from Frost and Sullivan found that telehealth visits increased 50% in the month of March, and a recent poll from a large market research firm found that more than one in eight Americans engaged in a video consult with a health professional in recent months.

The success of telehealth also hinges on being able to reach a key demographic: patients in rural communities who lack high-speed internet. For them, successful communication via telehealth requires the expansion of broadband internet access.

Amber Briggs, PharmD, a clinical pharmacy specialist for the Alaska VA Healthcare System has been prepared for this moment with telehealth. The Alaska VA and the Indian Health Services in Alaska have had telehealth capabilities for some time, and Briggs has been part of the effort to manage patients remotely, some in the far corners of Alaska.

“This has been an opportunity for pharmacists to step into the role we’ve been intended to play,” Briggs said. “From my perspective, we’ve done it.”

Visit www.pharmacytoday.org for the full article in the upcoming June 2020 issue of Pharmacy Today.