How has Telepharmacy provided value during the COVID-19 pandemic?
by Patricia Domínguez, January 27, 2021
During the COVID-19 pandemic we have seen how specialized hospital units and services have been obligated to reorganize themselves in order to provide continuity in healthcare, while at the same time trying to avoid new infections among their patients.
Over the past months, prompted by the urgency and the need to establish a safe model, providers began to integrate phone calls into their approach to carrying out patient monitoring, as well as using different technological tools, as has been mentioned in our article: How healthcare apps are contributing to the fight against COVID-19.
One example is in the Hospital Pharmacy, a pharmaceutical specialty responsible for selecting, preparing, controlling, and dispensing medications and healthcare products to hospital inpatients, as well as managing the appropriate, safe, and cost-effective use of the same. These responsibilities were defined in “The value of the Hospital Pharmacy,” a document issued by the Spanish Hospital Pharmacy Society (SEFH in Spanish).
This specialty has put into place many measures to ensure their operations while avoiding unnecessary hospital visits during the pandemic. One particular development has been Telepharmacy. This is the dispensing of medications without a personal visit, but including appropriate monitoring for the patients by means of technology. The implementation of this new model has been one of the big challenges for this specialty, as was mentioned by Dr. Olga Delgado, President of the SEFH, in the symposium “Management of the Hospital Pharmacy during COVID-19.”
For implementation of the changes, pharmacists have relied on the “Position Document of the Spanish Hospital Pharmacy Society on Telepharmacy.” This has become a framework for the appropriate use of this approach, and establishes that Telepharmacy must always be accompanied by telematic consultation or tele-consultation with the specialist in the Hospital Pharmacy, assuring the correct individualized follow-up of the patients after they receive their medication.
As a result, after several months of using this approach in different centers in Spain with good results, it became necessary to maintain it over the long-term. In fact, according to the ENOPEX study about the opinion of patients regarding Telepharmacy, 95% of the patients had a favorable opinion, and 97% thought it could become a complementary service to in-person dispensing.
In this way, technology is providing a new view of the possibilities of supporting distance monitoring of patients. In addition, the development of these solutions facilitates the collection of information regarding therapeutic adherence, quality of life, patient experience, and other data of interest regarding the impacts of therapies in real life while also minimizing unnecessary hospital visits.
This all shows us, once again, that technology in the healthcare environment has arrived to stay. Now we need to continue working so that the impetus that has developed over the past few months maintains the implemented approaches over the long-term, in the safest and most efficient way.