Friday, September 12, 2008

ND telepharmacy project expands across country

From the Associated Press:
As recently as three years ago, many elderly residents in this part of southeastern North Dakota were forced to order their medications by mail.

These days, customers have a real drugstore and can talk to a real person about their health needs — albeit via the Internet.

Thanks to the virtual pharmacy system that has been tested on the frozen prairie, the days of walking down to the general store for prescription drugs are returning to rural America.

"It's perfect," said Jim Williams, a longtime Arthur resident. "You can walk down there and it's done in a few minutes."

Most telepharmacies are staffed with registered pharmacy technicians, who usually need about two years of schooling and earn about $15 an hour in North Dakota. Some registered nurses also have been trained for the job.

The pharmacy technicians use remote cameras to contact pharmacists in another location and show them the original signed prescription, computer-generated label, stock bottle where the pills are stored and the bottle the patient will take home. Once the prescription is approved, patients have a mandatory private consultation with pharmacists through real-time video and audio.

"We can do most of the things the pharmacists do except give professional advice," said Jennifer Joyce, the pharmacy technician in Arthur. Joyce knows all of her patients on a first-name basis. ...more

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