Telepharmacy: The digital house call to reach patients


Learn the telepharmacy basics and benefits

In brief:

  • Telepharmacy continues to take the spotlight as the industry looks for ways to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and increase patient access to care.
  • Estimated start-up costs for a telepharmacy could be anywhere between $75,000 to $150,000 less than a traditional pharmacy.
  • Before you can pursue telepharmacy services, you’ll need to check your state laws. States often vary in their approach to telepharmacy.

Considering the ongoing global crisis, telemedicine technology is presenting itself as the ideal solution for alternative methods of providing healthcare. The technology was already experiencing significant growth prior to the public health emergency we are facing today, and its current trajectory has been solidified by the crucial role it is playing in healthcare today.

Adapting to the digital era requires pharmacies to shift toward a flexible and creative mindset. And new innovations in healthcare are taking pharmacists on a digital journey to reach their patients. Telemedicine technology, such as telepharmacy, is just one concrete example of digital transformation in healthcare.

What is telepharmacy?

Defined by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy as “the provision of pharmaceutical care through the use of telecommunications and information technologies to patients at a distance,” telepharmacy is an inpatient or retail/outpatient pharmacy where the pharmacist counsels and verifies prescriptions via a software platform from another physical location.

While it is a relatively new telemedicine concept, telepharmacy has already had a significant impact in the industry and shows promise to bridge the gap between pharmacies and out-of-reach, underserved rural communities.

Nick Secrest, Regional VP of RxOwnership — North Central region, comments, “Access to care for the patients is key, especially in rural areas. In some cases, towns may never have opportunities for pharmacy establishment or may have had one close down years ago.”

With telepharmacy, rural communities can establish pharmacy care in areas where chances of physical pharmacy locations are not economically feasible due to population size and business economics.

“I think in the future, it can allow for pharmacists to get to the patient wherever they are, via mobile technology. Most laws are not clear on this yet but it could be a larger opportunity in the future with value-based care models,” Secrest comments.

What are the benefits of telepharmacy to your business?

While implementing telepharmacy technology has an associated cost, the cost of start-up telepharmacy opportunities is often lower than those for an independent brick-and-mortar pharmacy. In fact, start-up cost for a telepharmacy typically runs less than a traditional pharmacy. Secrest estimates the start-up cost to be anywhere between $75,000 to $150,000 less.

Is telepharmacy for you?

Before you can pursue telepharmacy services, you’ll need to check your state laws. States often vary in their approach to telepharmacy.

Secrest comments, “Every state is different, and some states still don’t allow telepharmacy operations. Meanwhile, there are some states that have a distance requirement in place that dictates how many physical miles a telepharmacy operation must be from another pharmacy. Distance requirements are typically 10 miles or more.”

When it comes to deciding where to establish telepharmacy in relation to your current store, Secrest said, “If you locate the telepharmacy location too close to your host store, you may end up ‘cannibalizing’ your current business and increasing your current costs.”

Putting due diligence into establishing the location of your telepharmacy is vital. Secrest suggests “[getting] the support of local doctors early on in the process, as this will help you have a successful launch and allow you to build a base quickly.”

Secrest points out, “With telepharmacy, the lower start-up costs can be attractive, but it is extremely important to do your homework and thoroughly research the target market you are looking to enter to understand your financial commitment and break-even points.”

Ultimately, telepharmacy should be an extension of what independent pharmacies already do — care for their patients.


How can RxOwnership assist you in the process?

The RxOwnership® team has advisors on staff that are knowledgeable about telepharmacy and can provide you with advice unique to your store and state. Reach out to our advisors today at 800-266-6781 or contact us through the RxOwnership website.