With the rise in digital technology, telepharmacy has gained more attention globally from researchers, stakeholders, regulators, healthcare professionals and the public
BY MUNAVER AHMAD
Telepharmacy is the provision of pharmaceutical care services by pharmacists using secured and advanced remote information and communication technologies to patients at a distance.
This digital technology is considered as a novel breakthrough in healthcare sector as it has changed the horizon how healthcare services are delivered to the public. Telepharmacy was born in the last quarter of the 19th century when an invention, the telephone was first installed in a pharmacy.
With the passage of time and the rise in digital technology, telepharmacy has gained more attention globally, from researchers, stakeholders, regulators, healthcare professionals and public. Pharmacists in many countries have started using telepharmacy as a platform to communicate, consult and counsel their patients for illnesses, and medications.
The Covid-19 pandemic has witnessed the rise and acceleration of telepharmacy services, as during these periods, physical contact was not permitted in many countries’ pharmacy premises. There has also been a monumental shift in the buying behaviours and information seeking on medicines and illnesses to online sources by the public due to this pandemic and the high accessibility of internet.
The public is now more responsive and receptive in using virtual solutions as a safe, viable, and even more convenient alternative to face-to-face meetings seeking healthcare. This innovation benefits the public from all walks of life, especially those living in remote and rural areas to access high-quality pharmacy services.
Why you should use telepharmacy
Imagine if you fall sick on a gloomy rainy night and your cold and flu medicine has run out. Are you going to leave the house and grab the medicine at your nearest pharmacy?
A more likely scenario would be staying in the house and wait until the rain stops. Things become profoundly different with the use of telepharmacy.
Distance or weather is no longer a barrier to healthcare services. If you have your phone in hand, you can talk to your usual personal pharmacist even when you are having a vacation overseas.
With the utilisation of telepharmacy, you can access healthcare services in the comfort of your home. With just a click of button, your monthly medication supply will arrive at your doorstep. Counselling or consultation can be given regardless of your location and time zone.
Healthcare services such as medication review and management, quitting smoking, weight management, complementary and alternative medicines, halal pharmaceuticals, mental health, vaccination, minor ailments, self-care, and healthy lifestyle management can also be provided by pharmacists to you via telepharmacy.
Healthcare services, therefore, is no longer dull and time-consuming. In fact, this technological revolution aims to reduce healthcare costs, the waiting time and overcrowding situations at emergencies, improve health outcomes and quality of life, and improve efficiency and quality of care.
In an era of digital technology, there is an uncontrollable explosion of information on health-related matters that are easily accessible online be it on Facebook, Google, or even TikTok. However, have you ever stopped and begun to ponder if any of this information is accurate or reliable?
Confidentiality of information
What is the actual purpose of this information? Is it meant as a marketing tool to promote products? Who are the providers or sources of such information?
Are they qualified to even provide this information? This is another plus point of using telepharmacy, where you can consult and verify this information with pharmacists on a digital platform, to ensure that you get correct, accurate, reliable, unbiased and quality healthcare information, advice and guidance at your fingertips.
You will enjoy the freedom to choose topics related that you want from a list of dedicated pharmacists. If further investigations or interventions are warranted, the pharmacists will issue a reference letter to medical doctors or other allied healthcare professionals. Collaboration between allied healthcare professionals in managing diseases will enhance patient care and treatment outcome.
With all the amazing convenience that telepharmacy services can provide, you may start wondering and even begin to worry if the confidentiality of your consultations and data are under threat. Telepharmacy technology uses advanced and secured platforms to ensure that all your sensitive information such as personal information and medical history will be strictly kept confidential. Next, only certified and licensed pharmacists can provide you with the necessary consultations and counselling.
A value proposition for pharmacists
The role of community pharmacists is increasingly appreciated and recognised especially when it comes to patient communication and counselling. This is evident due to a burgeoning community pharmacy industry. Being the frontliners in the healthcare industry, community pharmacists are the most accessible healthcare professionals in a community.
Pharmacists are known as “Guardians of Medicines” advocating medication safety, patient safety and patient’s rights. However, community pharmacists should be alert on the demands and needs of their patients, especially in this era of digital health revolution.
The conventional business “brick and mortar” model may not be complete without digital health technologies. To provide a person-centric approach, it’s high time to change the narrative and extend pharmacy services beyond brick-and-mortar services.
Virtual care via telepharmacy is the way forward. A telepharmacist has the flexibility, autonomy, and freedom to fix consultations and counselling sessions, and extend services beyond the traditional community. Furthermore, telepharmacy is a digital health hub that connects and involves dynamic interactions with other healthcare professionals to provide a holistic person-centred patient care. – The Health
Munaver Ahmad is CEO of Rhazes Consultancy Services Sdn Bhd, a knowledge-based digital health technology provider.