What is telepharmacy?
Telepharmacy can be defined as the use of electronic information and communication technologies to provide pharmaceutical care when distance separates the pharmacist and the patient. Telepharmacy often includes electronic health record integration, audio-video connections, and increased patient access to pharmaceutical care.  A retail telepharmacy, or remote-dispensing site, operates as a traditional pharmacy except for the pharmacist reviews prescriptions and counsels patients from a remote location, usually through a live video call. Certified pharmacy technicians are employed to help with providing patients with their medicine without a pharmacist physically present.
What are the advantages?
The main advantage of telepharmacy is making pharmacy services available at the locations where a traditional pharmacy is not feasible, especially in rural areas where the shortage of pharmacists is common and which are filled with a vulnerable population. This leads to higher patient satisfaction, as these patients otherwise wouldn’t have access to a pharmacy near them. A wide range of services can be provided, from patient counseling to medication reconciliation. A patient who has access to the Internet can receive pharmacist consultations from anywhere, and one pharmacist can review prescriptions for multiple pharmacies.  It can also be implemented into hospital systems in order to improve the speed of processing of physician medication orders and to increase clinical pharmacy services. Another use of telepharmacy in community hospitals is providing nighttime pharmaceutical services, which are needed in hospitals without the full night pharmacy shift established.
What are the challenges and concerns?
Telepharmacy is undoubtedly a great concept, but it can sometimes be challenging to put into practice considering the technological requirements. For example, equipment with a high-speed digital connection is needed, which is often limited in rural areas. The start-up of telepharmacy involves considerable time, effort and money. As there is no pharmacist physically present, there is increased responsibility placed on pharmacy technicians as the most senior employees inside of the pharmacy. Other than that, the technology might not be well accepted by all the patients, especially elderly people. While telepharmacies increase patient access to pharmaceutical care, the quality of pharmacist-patient relationships might not be the same as in traditional pharmacies.  There is also a question of security because telepharmacy involves the transmission of personal and health-related information over the Internet, and it is essential to keep the transfer of that data under control. 
Rural areas often lack easy access to healthcare services often due to geographical and demographical factors. Telepharmacy holds a significant promise to improve that. Taking into consideration the challenges and concerns, a well-developed system can change the practice of pharmacy that is beneficial to both the rural communities and the hospital or retail pharmacies that deliver these services. 
What is your opinion on telepharmacy?
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