How to Start a Telepharmacy 

How to Start a Telepharmacy 

Inside: How to start a telepharmacy in four simple steps. 

As telemedicine services take off in other sectors of the healthcare industry, it could be time for your pharmacy to get up to speed. 

A telepharmacy is typically a brick-and-mortar building that dispenses medications — just without a pharmacist on site. Pharmacy technicians manage workflow with virtual supervision and final verification from a pharmacist working at another location. Patients can even be counseled by pharmacists via an HD video connection. 

Here’s why you should consider adding a telepharmacy location, and how to start a telepharmacy. 

Read next: Dramatically Expand Your Business With Telepharmacy

Telepharmacy eases pharmacist workload 

One critical advantage of telepharmacy is that it allows individual pharmacists to have a bigger impact while simultaneously streamlining their workflow. 

Instead of having three pharmacy locations, each staffed by its own pharmacist, telepharmacy allows one pharmacist to approve of prescriptions dispensed at all three locations. That doesn’t mean the other two pharmacists are out of a job. Instead, it means they can spend time working directly with patients. 

Telepharmacy also empowers technicians to practice at the top of their certification, further freeing up pharmacists to focus on bigger picture tasks. 

Telepharmacy increases access 

Many people in both rural and urban areas find themselves in so-called pharmacy deserts, which are areas that don’t have convenient access to a pharmacy. 

Patients who live in these areas are less likely to adhere to their medications because obtaining refills can be a cumbersome and time-consuming task. This means they also face more adverse health outcomes. 

Telepharmacy can serve as an important tool for reducing the number of pharmacy deserts in the United States. At a relatively low cost, existing retail pharmacies can establish telepharmacy locations in underserved areas to increase access to prescription medications and provide personalized care. 

Telepharmacy decreases startup costs 

If you’re ready to expand your pharmacy but aren’t keen on the cost and risk associated with opening an entirely new location, telepharmacy can be a good way to hedge your bets. 

By establishing a telepharmacy location, you can slowly build up your prescription volume. If things go well, you can convert the telepharmacy location to a fully-fledged pharmacy with the confidence of knowing you are providing a much-wanted service to the community. 

If the prescription volume doesn’t explode like you hoped it would, that’s fine, too. You didn’t waste any money opening a completely staffed pharmacy location and can keep operating the new space as a lower-cost telepharmacy operation. 

How to start a telepharmacy in 4 steps

What you need to do before you start a telepharmacy location up and running. 

1. Know the laws 

Before you go all-in on a telepharmacy practice, be sure to check your local laws. Some states are more favorable to telepharmacy than others, and the rules are different in every state. In about half of states, telepharmacy isn’t permitted at all. 

Even in states where telepharmacy is legal, there are some common restrictions you may be faced with. These include: 

  • Mileage restrictions: Some states have laws that state telepharmacy locations must be located within a certain distance from the traditional retail pharmacy location. 
  • Staffing requirements: Most states that allow telepharmacy specify the number of technicians a pharmacy can oversee at once. Technicians working in telepharmacy may also be required to meet certain experience requirements. 
  • Facility requirements: States may require telepharmacy locations to meet a certain square footage requirement or be located within a clinic. 

To learn more about the telepharmacy rules in your state, check out this whitepaper from TelePharm. 

2. Invest in the technology 

To prepare a pharmacy location for telepharmacy services, you are going to have to invest in some new technology. 

In a traditional retail pharmacy, a technician would fill a prescription, then it would be checked by a pharmacist before it is dispensed. The process is almost identical for telepharmacy, except the technician and the pharmacist are connected via telepharmacy software. 

After receiving the prescription, the technician sends images to the pharmacist via a cloud-based software. At another location, the pharmacist reviews the images and checks for potential drug interactions, and they can either approve or reject based on what they see. 

Patient counseling also creates another technology necessity. Telepharmacies must be equipped with a private HD video connection so patients can ask the pharmacist questions about their prescription in private, just like they would if they were picking up their prescription at a traditional pharmacy location. 

3. Train your staff 

As you transition into telepharmacy, your technician staff may worry that remote services will mean you no longer need them. 

But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Telepharmacy actually gives your technicians the opportunity to take on more responsibility in the practice, since they will probably be manning the telepharmacy location without in-person pharmacist supervision. 

To prepare technicians for their new role, spend time training them so they can serve patients with confidence. 

TelePharm recommends letting technicians get comfortable with the software while they are still working in the main pharmacy location. Treat the workflow as if the technician is working remotely at the telepharmacy location so they can discover the potential snags in the process while they still have an in-person safety net. 

Create detailed documentation of standard operating procedures so technicians have a reference they can rely on, and establish clear protocols for communication so technicians always know how to get ahold of you while they are working from the telepharmacy location. 

4. Connect with the community 

Once you start your telepharmacy, you’ll have to do some marketing to introduce it to your community. 

If you have converted an existing retail pharmacy into a telepharmacy location, you’ll have to educate patients about what that means. Assure them that they can still pick up their prescriptions as usual, and teach them about the video technology they’ll use to speak with the pharmacist. 

Some patients may be worried about the safety of telepharmacy, so be prepared to walk them through the checks in place that ensure they are getting the correct medication. 

When you open a brand new telepharmacy location, you’ll want to provide all the same education, but you’ll also have to establish rapport with the community. Hold a grand opening event to introduce the new location and demonstrate the technology. 


A Member-Owned Company Serving Independent Pharmacies

PBA Health is dedicated to helping independent pharmacies reach their full potential on the buy-side of their business. Founded and owned by pharmacists, PBA Health serves independent pharmacies with group purchasing services, wholesaler contract negotiations, proprietary purchasing tools, and more.

An HDA member, PBA Health operates its own NABP-accredited secondary wholesaler with more than 6,000 SKUs, including brands, generics, narcotics CII-CV, cold-storage products, and over-the-counter (OTC) products — offering the lowest prices in the secondary market.

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