Telepharmacists Keep Rural Care Going
Morristown, Indiana, population 1,300, was at risk of becoming one more rural health care desert, lacking both a local pharmacy and easy access to basic medical services.
But a partnership between Hancock Health, a leading regional health system, and Amwell, has given the residents of Morristown a pharmacy and medical services. A triangular health care network connecting a newly opened Medicap pharmacy hub in Morristown to doctors at Hancock Health through one fiber-optic link, and to an older Medicap pharmacy in Greenfield, Indiana, through another.
The pharmacy actually does not have a pharmacist on site. A certified pharmacy technician greets patients and fills prescriptions, while a pharmacist at the Greenfield Medicap Pharmacy provides medication safety oversight and patient counseling.
The pharmacist observes the technician through photos of the prescription and everything she does, then evaluates the prescription to make sure it is correct. Through an iPad, the pharmacist can talk directly to patients.
Through an urgent care kiosk located in a private counseling room, people with uncomplicated illnesses or injuries can perform basic self-diagnostic tests and then communicate with an on-call Hancock Health physician via a TV screen. A document is generated at the end of the visit and sent to the hospital; if the patient is a current Hancock Health client, the document goes into the patient’s medical records and is reviewed by their physician.
Hancock Health installed the kiosk in partnership with Suburban Health Organization, an Indiana physician and hospital network, and Amwell, which provides the telehealth platform.
Morristown residents have adapted easily to the new technology. “Sixty-one percent of the people are over 60 years old,” said David Bush, RPh, the pharmacist who provides medication oversight and counseling. “I was concerned that we might have a technology gap. But in fact, it’s been very well received. Most patients tell us they’re extremely happy we’re there, and they think it’s interesting and kind of fun to talk and ask questions on the iPad.”
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