Telemedicine and Telepharmacy Perspectives: What To Wait For

Guest post by Alexandra Riabtsun, marketing manager, Glorium Technologies.

Alexandra Riabtsun
Alexandra Riabtsun

The need of Telemedicine AHA Report shows that 20 percent of US citizens are located in the rural areas and do not have access to the healthcare professionals and their services. The industry, though, has found a way out in form of telemedicine.

Telemedicine is defined by American Telemedicine Association as the process of medical data exchange from one site to another via electronic devices in order to improve patient clinical health status, electronic devices meaning emali, applications, video, wireless gadgets, smartphones, etc.

Telemedicine notion includes three main modalities: real-time, store-and-forward, and remote patient monitoring. The first modality means doctor-patient interaction with the help of audiovisual technology. The second — transmission of patient data and her history via secured electronic channels to a healthcare specialist. The third — collection of the patient data with the help of special devices (like wearables) and its transmission to a healthcare provider.

Telemedicine Perspectives

Foley predicts that by 2020, telemedicine will grow to 36.2 billion US dollars at CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 14.3 percent. In 2014, it was 14.3 billion US dollars. Currently, there are around 200 healthcare academic centers in the US that provide video consultations worldwide, according to American Telemedicine Association.

Foley has also reported that 90 percent of healthcare top minders have already begun telemedicine integration. Nearly 70 percent of employers are going to offer telemedicine services as perks for their employees. 42 states in the US have already created more than 200 legislative acts about telemedicine.

US patients are not opposed to the idea of telemedicine, too. According to American Well, 64 percent of them would attend a meeting with their doctor via telecommunication means; forecasts that there will be 7 billion telemedicine users worldwide.

Types of Telemedicine

Telemedicine deals with many spheres of healthcare: telestroke (remote data transferred to the emergency specialists on site), teleradiology (images and media transfer), tele-ICU (systems and networks connected to the critical medical specialists), telemental health (distant mental health treatment), cybersurgery (operations held by surgeons remotely with the help of telecommunication and robotic instruments), and telepharmacy.

Importance of Telepharmacy

As stated by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 74.2 percent of physician visits involve drug therapy. During hospital outpatient department visits, there were 329.2 million drugs ordered or provided. These numbers demonstrate the potential hidden in the telepharmacy. Moreover, the number of independent pharmacies is steadily decreasing from 2011.

Telepharmacy was originally introduced for the rural areas that lack the resources to supply existing demands in the pharmacy. However, it’s now being actively used by healthcare systems, regardless of the location, due to its ability to meet medication needs 24/7.

A vivid example of telepharmacy success, Comprehensive Pharmacy Services, has launched telepharmacy project, CPS Telepharmacy, that works 24/7 the whole year round. It has been reported to detect and improve 1,300 medical errors per year and to have reduced around 45 percent of costs, with improved quality.

Telepharmacy Cases

CPS Telepharmacy can process nearly 3 million medication events a year and involves with 200 medication orders a day (73,000 cases a year). Averagely, errors occur 3.6 times per day. Those can be wrong patient, wrong dose, or wrong medication.

CPS Telepharmacy has brought substantial improvements in form of reduced costs, lowered adverse drug events, and improved clinical outcomes.

PiplineRX, another leader in the industry, has recently announced its round funding at $9.1 million U.S. dollars by McKesson Ventures, Mitsui & Co Inc., and AMN Healthcare. Currently, the system is available in around 200 hospitals.

Telepharmacy Perspectives

Many reports have been issued emphasizing the importance of the control of antibiotics prescription, namely ASP (antimicrobial stewardship program) to prevent emerging antibiotic resistance. Advanced technologies are to help reduce costs on drug by finding cheaper alternatives or preventing over prescribing of medications.

To sum up, telemedicine, as well as telepharmacy, have great perspectives. The number of their supporters in the healthcare industry is increasing from day to day and is not going to stop.

Health IT Thought Leader Highlight: Brian Roberts, CEO and Founder, PipelineRx

brobertsPipelineRx is a telepharmacy company offering remote and SaaS pharmacy services to rural hospitals, as well as larger integrated delivery networks (IDNs). For smaller hospitals, PipelineRx offers 24/7 staffing during nights and weekends, verifying medication orders remotely to promote patient safety. The SaaS technology platform allows larger IDNs to essentially create their own telepharmacy, using one of their own pharmacists to staff additional locations.

CEO Brian Roberts has spent most of his career focused on healthcare services and staffing. Prior to co-founding PipelineRx, he was the president of Canopy Healthcare until it was acquired in late 2008. Canopy Healthcare was the leading allied healthcare staffing firm on the West Coast. Prior to Canopy Healthcare, Roberts was the EVP of business development at CHG Healthcare Services, a $600 million leader in diversified healthcare staffing which supplied physicians, pharmacists, nurses, and allied healthcare professionals to hospitals nationwide.

Here, Roberts discusses his firm and its capabilities, technology developments he’s seeing, telemedicine challenges and trends we’ll see in the coming year.

Tell me more about yourself and what inspired you to found PipelineRx?

I spent the first half of my career as a venture capitalist investing in early stage healthcare services and healthcare IT companies. I spent the second half of my career building companies from the ground up as an entrepreneur. I love the operations and technologies that are critical for building a sustainable business model. After building two successful medical staffing companies, I figured out that we could “staff” hospitals using remote pharmacists that work from home. The labor arbitrage of enabling one pharmacist to work on multiple hospitals drove on average a three to one return for hospitals. This all was enabled by creating a technology that allowed interchange between PipelineRX and hospital pharmacy information systems and EHRs.

We now have an amazing management team bringing more than 100 years of experience in building pharmacy technology companies.

Tell me more about your desire to lead a telepharmacy company? Who uses this service? How is it growing and how has it changed?

Leading PipelineRx is exhilarating each and every day. Overcoming challenges are what makes it interesting and trying to apply cloud based technology to a service that must be completed (pharmacy verification services).

Hospitals of all sizes use the service. From the small side, critical access hospitals with 25 beds use the service for long stretches, say 6 p.m. to – 6 a.m. and 24 hours on the weekends. Our service allows them to save significant costs yet have world class medical coverage of their hospital. We can also fill in if an employee pharmacist calls in sick or if there is a big snow storm and the employee pharmacist can’t make it to work. We also work with larger hospitals and hospital systems that are looking to optimize their staffing levels. While pharmacies traditionally were staffed like a firehouse with ample coverage, PipelineRx allows the hospital to staff to the median levels and then use our staff for peak or overflow. It’s been an amazing journey to see hospital administrators and C-suite’s understand that we assist in moving traditional fixed costs to variable costs through our unique service.

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