Any pharmacist can attest to the importance of having hard-working, responsible, and trustworthy pharmacy technicians on the team.
Techs are the lifeblood of pharmacies. From filling and dispensing prescriptions in an efficient manner to taking care of odd jobs around pharmacies, techs keep things running smoothly while freeing up pharmacists to focus on clinical duties.
Although techs are a vital part of the pharmacy team in any setting, their importance reaches its apex in the telepharmacy setting. For that reason, let’s examine the role of the tech in a telepharmacy, how that role differs from the traditional pharmacy setting, and how telepharmacy provides an elevated role beyond what is typically available for techs.
A retail telepharmacy is a brick-and-mortar pharmacy location, either in a stand-alone building or a dedicated pharmacy space inside a clinic, that has the look and feel of a traditional pharmacy. The only difference is that typically there is no pharmacist onsite, just a tech.
A pharmacist supervises the tech, verifies prescriptions, and counsels patients remotely through Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act—compliant telepharmacy software from a host pharmacy location. The tech at the telepharmacy greets patients, fills prescriptions, and facilitates the pharmacist’s consultations by guiding patients to connect with the pharmacist via a video call.
Because the role of a tech in a telepharmacy is distinct in several ways from the role in the traditional setting, consider the following 3 factors, which help clarify the tech’s increased level of responsibility in telepharmacy and the skills necessary to succeed in this setting:
- The telepharmacy is still fully reliant on the pharmacist. The telepharmacy is supervised remotely by the pharmacist from the host location, where they can monitor activity through surveillance and communicate seamlessly with the tech through the telepharmacy software. The telepharmacy cannot operate when the pharmacist at the host site is not on duty, just like in a traditional pharmacy. Additionally, prescriptions cannot be dispensed to the patient until they have been verified and approved by the pharmacist. This means that if the pharmacist takes a lunch break, the tech should close and follow suit. If the pharmacist must end the day early for personal reasons, the telepharmacy must close early as well. Telepharmacy techs should be knowledgeable but should under no circumstances consider themselves capable or free to provide medication advice or counseling to patients. Instead, the tech should always defer to the pharmacist and reach out via video call to answer patient questions. It is the tech’s duty to direct patients to the counseling tablet in the telepharmacy, where the pharmacist is always just a click away.
- The tech is the “face” of the telepharmacy. Just like in a traditional pharmacy, when patients walk in the door of a telepharmacy, they are greeted by a tech who will assist them with picking up their prescriptions. The difference in a telepharmacy is that the tech is the primary, and usually the only, individual who will assist the patient in person. The pharmacist puts a lot of trust in the tech to treat patients with care and kindness and to represent the pharmacy well. A patient’s experience with the pharmacy ultimately comes down to their experience with the tech. As any tech knows, regardless of the setting, the pharmacy can get busy at peak times, and patients might become impatient. It is incredibly important that telepharmacy techs are comfortable communicators who can build relationships and resolve conflicts as they arise. Techs who can handle business and stress with patience and a smile will thrive in a telepharmacy, making patients and pharmacists very happy.
- Techs have more autonomy and responsibility. Because the tech is the only one onsite, they will essentially manage all aspects of the pharmacy’s operations. This includes auditing and procuring inventory, establishing and managing pharmacy/prescriber relationships, fulfilling custom patient needs, and resolving billing and insurance disputes. With no one else physically in the telepharmacy, the tech is responsible for all these tasks in addition to filling prescriptions and interacting with patients, as well as the minutiae of sweeping the floors and taking out the trash. Techs working in telepharmacies must be experienced, responsible self-starters who can do the things they need to do without someone watching over them. Telepharmacy provides techs with an elevated role in the pharmacy and gives them an opportunity to use their experience and skills in new ways. Reliable telepharmacy techs allow their pharmacists to expand their pharmacy businesses and serve more patients who would otherwise go without access. Telepharmacy provides benefits for stakeholders along the health care spectrum, from the clinics to the pharmacists, to the underserved patients in rural and urban settings across the country.
The practice of telepharmacy is made possible by the vital techs who are willing to take on this new, elevated role and the increased level of responsibility that comes with it.