The Nebraska Medical Center’s new “Remote Pharmaceutical Care Program” connects rural hospitals with experienced pharmacists who are either leaving the workforce, want to stay home with their children, or want to work additional hours. The Medical Center now provides remote pharmacists with secure computers to use at home. During their shift, remote pharmacists stay near the computers that will sound an audible alarm when the pharmacist’s attention is required.
This system is a convenience for both rural hospitals and the remote pharmacists, since the remote pharmacists are able to review orders before medication is administered and this can greatly reduce errors, according to Lori Murante, Pharmacy Relations and Clinical Support Administrator at the Nebraska Medical Center.
The remote pharmacists use computers equipped with video conferencing systems so that medical staff at the hospitals are able to communicate visually with the pharmacist. The computers also allow the pharmacists to have access from home to all of the resources available to pharmacists at the Medical Center.
This new program developed through an initiative between the Medical Center and Prairie Health Ventures, LLC, is going to help as 64 of the 93 counties in the state face a shortage or near shortage of hospital pharmacists. Litzenberg Memorial County Hospital in Central City, Nebraska serves 2,800 people who live in the city, and nearly 8,000 who live in surrounding Merrick County. This hospital was the first hospital to begin working with the program in June 2008.
The shortage of pharmacists is not unique to the Midwest. According to the Pharmacy Manpower Project, 45 states have a moderate or high demand for pharmacists. The Director of the Litzenberg hospital Reg Hain, believes that this program can have a positive effect on the shortage of pharmacists in rural areas.
The pharmacists in the program are well trained with extensive hospital backgrounds. For example, Sharon Foust was Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Practice at Drake University and Clinical Pharmacist at the Veterans Administration hospital in Des Moines before she started working at home as a remote pharmacist.
Pharmacists participating in the remote pharmacy program need to obtain licenses to practice in Nebraska, Iowa, and Missouri. Since Litzenberg and Howard County Community Hospital in St. Paul, Nebraska are the first hospitals to participate in the program, hospitals in all three states are expected to eventually take part. The program is available to all community hospitals and critical access centers in the region.