Telemedicine Fills Pharmacy Services Gap Following Rural Store Closures

After being forced to close 2 rural pharmacies, Roby Miller turned to technology.

After being forced to close 2 rural pharmacies, Roby Miller turned to technology

Digital health care company TelePharm has received $2.5 million in funding from Iowa investors to bring remote pharmacy services to patients across the state’s rural communities.

According to a press release from the company, the funds will be used to expand personnel, scale operations, and launch 2 new products, TeleCounsel and TeleCheck. The company intends to use a proprietary online platform to allow centrally located pharmacists to provide offsite services. The services may also extend to physician offices, long-term care facilities, or patient’s homes, the release said.

“The idea for the company came after my family had to close 2 rural Iowa pharmacies,” TelePharm founder and CEO Roby Miller said in the release. “This funding will strengthen our position in the industry and allow us to continue making our product more efficient and effective for both patients and health care providers.”

Iowa investors John Pappajohn and Bruce Rastetter led the funding round, while Built by Iowa, an equity fund created to support early-stage Iowa businesses, provided additional seed capital. The company is also backed by Rock Health, a San Francisco-based seed fund for digital health startups.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to invest in Iowa and rural America, and I couldn’t be more pleased to be part of it,” Rastetter said in the release. “TelePharm will improve patient care, lower costs, and increase healthcare accessibility for those often underserved—our rural and small town neighbors.”

In North Dakota, which launched the first telepharmacy program in the United States in 2002, telepharmacies extend services to 80,000 patients who would not otherwise have access to pharmacy services. In certain parts of that state, a one-way trip to the pharmacy can exceed 50 miles.

Developed by the North Dakota Board of Pharmacy and the North Dakota University College of Pharmacy, telepharmacies within the state share computer, audio, and video links.

Their model permits 2 implementations of telepharmacies. The first is a full-service site that has a prescription inventory and is staffed by trained and certified pharmacy technicians, with a registered pharmacist checking medications and providing counseling via the video links. The second is a consultation site that receives filled prescriptions from the central site and uses the video link for patient counseling.