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Navy launching telepharmacy project

The system will connect more than 100 Navy medical sites, allowing pharmacists to staff several locations remotely.

By Pamela Lewis Dolan — Posted May 6, 2010

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A telepharmacy project under way at the U.S. Navy is being billed as the largest of its kind.

The telepharmacy system, being deployed by ScriptPro, a Mission, Kan.-based pharmacy technology company, will allow the Navy to staff pharmacies remotely when there isn't a pharmacist on site.

Capt. Stephanie M. Simon, Navy pharmacy specialty leader and pharmacy consultant to the surgeon general of the Navy, said deployments for both military and humanitarian missions have created a great staffing need in the Navy's pharmacies.

The telepharmacy system will help bridge the gap and allow Navy health facilities to continue meeting their Joint Commission accreditation standards, Simon said.

At locations without a pharmacist on site, pharmacy technicians or nonpharmacy medical staff can dispense medications with real-time remote monitoring and checks done by a licensed pharmacist.

The person staffing the satellite location presses a call button that rings at all the other telepharmacy locations across the globe. An available pharmacist answers the call to provide assistance.

The system uses two-way video and audio connections that allow the pharmacist to review every step of the dispensing process. The technology also will allow pharmacists to conduct real-time consults with patients.

Although most prescriptions are sent electronically, the system also can create electronic images of paper prescriptions, which become part of the patients' records.

Mike Coughlin, president and CEO of ScriptPro, said that with approximately 110 sites around the world, this is considered to be the largest telepharmacy rollout in history.

The satellite pharmacies are at land-based medical facilities, but the company is studying the technology's effectiveness on ships.

The Veterans Health Administration has been using the technology for some time, Coughlin said. Other branches of the Military Health System also are looking at the technology. The Army has testing sites up and running, and testing sites are scheduled to be deployed with the Air Force.

Simon couldn't disclose details on the project's cost but said: "We are entrusted with taking care of the heroes of our nation and their families. They deserve high-quality care, and therefore the cost of equipment to ensure this standard of care does not outweigh the benefit."

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