Article Text

  1. K. K. Van Kirk
  1. University of Washington, Seattle, WA


Purpose Due to increased utilization of prescription medications, it is essential that patients have easy access to drug therapy. This is important even if it is not feasible to establish a conventional pharmacy in a rural, agriculture-focused town like Pine Bluffs, WY, population 1,153. The purpose of this research was to understand the pharmaceutical needs of patients in a rural setting without a pharmacy, to investigate successful telepharmacy models and corresponding regulations, and to propose telepharmacy regulations for revision of a previously rejected proposal.

Methods Informal interviews and discussions were conducted with the clinic physician and patients to determine how valuable telepharmacy would be to residents of Pine Bluffs, WY. A rejected telepharmacy proposal was reviewed. The telepharmacy model was analyzed and literature concerning states with successful integration of telepharmacy was reviewed. Review of the current Wyoming Pharmacy Act, consultation with a pharmacist, and composition of telepharmacy regulations that could be proposed to the Wyoming State Pharmacy Board were completed.

Summary of Results A shortage in pharmacists and economic challenges can inhibit pharmacy service in rural communities, but these patients deserve the same quality care that their urban counterparts receive. Telepharmacy utilizes technology such as audiovisual and Internet links to deliver pharmaceutical care to patients in a remote community by a pharmacist in a distant location. The pharmacist at the base site controls a remote site “vending machine” that contains pre-dispensed medications. The remote site is staffed by an authorized individual. The process is audiovisually overseen and verified by the pharmacist ensuring safety and proper patient counseling. This innovative technology can complement the face-to-face relationships that patients, physicians, and pharmacists have come to expect and value. A provision was proposed to allow registered pharmacy technicians to dispense medications with only audiovisual supervision from pharmacists and without a pharmacist physically present.

Conclusions Telepharmacy has proven to be useful in rural areas and settings like the emergency room where regular pharmacy service is not available. Wyoming health care professionals need to collaborate to make necessary changes to the Wyoming Pharmacy Act to begin implementation of this basic service, ensuring high-quality comprehensive care for rural patients.

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