Magazine article Drug Topics

Pharmacy and Telehealth: Perfect Together

Magazine article Drug Topics

Pharmacy and Telehealth: Perfect Together

Article excerpt

Every day we read about the many pressures retail pharmacists face: Medicare Parts A, B, D-all affect the industry. Major discounters offering lowball drug prices as "loss leaders" to build their sales are truly frightening.

In the midst of these dark clouds, I have found an exciting opportunity for pharmacists to bring a new service to their patients with chronic illnesses. It is called home telehealth.

To understand what this is, one has to refer back to the first successful launching of astronauts into outer space. NASA needed a means of checking the vital signs of the astronauts as they traveled around the earth. What was developed has blossomed into home telehealth.

This gives physicians, healthcare professionals, and family caregivers the capability to monitor patients without having to make a call in person or bringing them to an office. They can obtain all the vital signs they need almost instantly via home telehealth. Weight, blood pressure, glucose level, pulse rate, and cardiac monitoring are some of the vitals the practitioners need to maintain their patients' health.

How simple this is can best be described as follows: The patient steps onto a scale and then utilizes a pulse oximeter, spirometer, blood pressure cuff, glucose meter, or any other equipment required. All these vital signs are immediately reported to the nurse or physician. The recipient can then make a hard copy or transfer the information to the patient's record via his computer.

If there are any significant changes, the physician or nurse can follow up to determine what's happening with the patient. If the patient's weight has jumped, the clinician might find that the patient went out for dinner the previous night and there is no problem. If the patient's blood sugar or pressure rises, the health professional can ask and determine whether a personal call must be made. If s been reported that emergency room visits have been reduced by as much as 80% when a home telehealth unit monitors the patient. The need for a patient to be hospitalized has been reduced dramatically via this technique.

So how does the local pharmacy fit into this program? Right in the middle; that's how! Active community pharmacies have staff with the necessary knowledge to make this a success. They must prove to manufacturers of home telehealth equipment what they know, whom they know, and how they will be able to become local distributors. …

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