ePharmacy and Hiawatha Community Hospital make history with remote supervision
Via Christi Health ePharmacy and Hiawatha (Kan.) Community Hospital made history just before Thanksgiving when a pharmacist in Wichita used teleconferencing equipment to remotely supervise a pharmacy technician at the hospital. ePharmacy Director Mark Gagnon, PharmD, was the first in Kansas to make use of a new pharmacy regulation allowing remote electronic supervision of a pharmacy technician.
Hiawatha Community Hospital is one of six hospitals outside of Via Christi Health that subscribe to ePharmacy. Remotely located pharmacists routinely use remote medication order entry to verify medication orders for hospitals before medications are dispensed to patients. The process enhances patient safety by reducing the risk of medication errors. It also can shorten the turnaround time for patients to receive their medication while in the hospital.
Via Christi Health assisted the Kansas State Board of Pharmacy in developing the regulatory language to allow electronic supervision of a hospital pharmacy technician by a remotely located pharmacist. Kansas is one of only a few states to allow the provision of this type of innovative care. Via Christi Health ePharmacy is the first program in Kansas to use the new regulation that is expected to improve access to hospital pharmacists by all sizes of hospitals in the growing shortage of pharmacists.
“It worked well for both of us,” said Gagnon. “We were able to beta test our system live with the hospital’s pharmacy technician and they had coverage while their pharmacist was gone over the Thanksgiving holiday.”
Gagnon calls electronic supervision a major step in the evolution of pharmacy practice as it enables hospitals without pharmacists present to improve patient care, and allows nurses to spend more time at the bedside taking care of the patient instead of handling pharmacy-related duties.
Jean Abeita, RPh, is the director of pharmacy for Hiawatha Community Hospital. On call 24 hours, seven days a week, she normally relies on ePharmacy to provide after-hours remote order entry and weekend coverage. ePharmacists process medication orders that enable nurses to secure medications from automated dispensing cabinets and keep current medication administration records for their patients. On Nov. 22, Abeita relied on Via Christi Health ePharmacy to provide remote supervision of the hospital’s pharmacy technician so that she could take a well-deserved break from her job.
“The remote supervision test with ePharmacy provided the hospital and our pharmacy technician a means for work to go on as usual without our technician having to worry about what was or wasn’t within her scope, or whether the nurses were having to work in a less safe environment by having to do part of the pharmacy job themselves,” Abeita said.
Using a remote camera, Gagnon viewed the pharmacy technician as she moved through the pharmacy and, if a medication needed to be checked, she set it beneath a camera so that Gagnon could verify the medication via video. Without pharmacist review, nurses can only secure single doses of medicine at a time from a pharmacy. With a pharmacist’s supervision, pharmacy technicians are allowed to take out multiple medications to refill automatic dispensing machines to help serve patients throughout the day.
ePharmacy’s remote supervision also provides significant cost savings. Without it, Abeita explained, she would have had to use a sourcing firm to hire a relief pharmacist at more than $90 per hour, plus meals and lodging.
Abeita is a big believer in the value that ePharmacy provides to hospitals and patients.
“We have pharmacists who are registered in the State of Kansas looking at our orders and who understand our systems and our state laws,” she said. “We’re using something that’s locally provided by a health system — Via Christi — that is using outreach as a way for us small hospitals to have the same safe environment that you would have in a big hospital. That’s something to which patients should be entitled.”