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Five hospitals in northern Ontario sign-on for telepharmacy services

Looking to enhance their pharmacy services and improve medication management initiatives, five small hospitals in northeastern Ontario have engaged Northwest Telepharmacy Solutions (NTS) after a successful award by HealthPRO Procurement Services, Canada’s national group purchasing organization.

Implementing a regional telepharmacy service will help hospital pharmacy departments provide extended pharmacy hours and a timelier clinical review of medication orders.

The service also supports the development and implementation of programs such as antimicrobial stewardship, medication reconciliation, pharmacy administration, specific policies and procedures, and pharmacy and therapeutics committee work.

The five committed hospitals will receive medication order review from 8am to 8pm, Monday to Friday, with on-call services outside of those hours for physicians and nurses to have 24-hour access to a pharmacist.

The hospitals are Lady Dunn Health Centre, Hornepayne Community Hospital, Services de Santé de Chapleau Health Services, Temiskaming Hospital, and the Weeneebayko Area Health Authority.

“It is very exciting to see these small hospitals implement enhanced comprehensive pharmacist services to support patient safety,” says Northwest Telepharmacy Solution’s Director and founder, Kevin McDonald.

“My heart is in northern Ontario, and our very first telepharmacy hospital client was the Weeneebayko General Hospital, in Moose Factory, back in 2004. As a result of this procurement, all of the committed hospitals will now receive longer hours of pharmacist support and valuable project hours to invest into more patient safety initiatives around medication management.”

Hospitals in many small communities like those across much of northern Ontario have struggled to recruit pharmacists with extensive hospital pharmacy experience.

“Telepharmacy is revolutionary for introducing hospital-trained pharmacists, virtually, into small and rural hospitals for providing care,” says Sammu Dhaliwall of NTS. “Now, a team of pharmacists located in a completely different geographical location can provide services to small hospitals in northern Ontario, all done by embracing innovative technologies which we are assessing and implementing across Canada.”

One of those pharmacists is Satvir Bains, who recently received the Hospital Practice in a Rural Setting Award from the Ontario Branch of Canadian Society of Hospital Pharmacists.

“While covering several hospitals remotely has its challenges at times,” says Satvir, “there is certainly a satisfaction that comes with the positive impacts we are able to make on patient care. The need for pharmacists to clinically review the impact of new medications started in the hospital is even more crucial today, as we have an aging population with polypharmacy challenges, dealing with antimicrobial resistance and of course, the opioid crisis.”

“This is the first service-based contract in our pharmacy portfolio,” said HealthPRO’s Christine Donaldson, Vice President of Pharmacy Services. “We know hospitals are looking for cost-effective ways to enhance their in-patient pharmacy services and believe telepharmacy is a viable option for many hospitals to consider. This service contract will help Ontario hospitals reach a higher level of compliance with more rigorous patient safety standards.”

“Northwest Telepharmacy Solutions has been instrumental in improving pharmacy care for patients across the James Bay Region,” says Crystal Culp, Director of Professional Practice at Weeneebayko. “Theresa Crann has been one of our own in leading projects for improving pharmacy’s reach across the hospital. In the outpatient space, the pharmacist-assisted warfarin dosing program has been a consistent care improvement that is welcomed by physicians, nurses, and patients.”

As quality improvement initiatives using technology such as Automated Dispensing Units, Bedside Medication Verification, and Computerized Prescriber Order Entry become a reality across the province, the need for pharmacist involvement for extended hours (including 24/7/365 as the goal) grows.

“Telepharmacy is the most efficient means to extend hospital hours,” says McDonald. One area where telepharmacy may help with reducing hospital readmission is in the medication reconciliation process. Medication reconciliation associated interviews and teaching may best be provided by face to face interviews with hospital inpatients; however, NTS is striving to overcome this face-to-face barrier by researching the use of a telepresence robot nicknamed “Sheldon” to conduct those interviews. “Patients really light up when Sheldon wheels into their room to conduct a pharmacist interview,” says Ms Bains.

The contract is open for commitment to all Ontario HealthPRO members to expand their pharmacy services.

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