December 2013

VHS' ePharmacist Direct Delivers Virtual Clinical Pharmacy Services

When CHI established its Virtual Health Services (VHS) subsidiary in July 2012, it already had a successful venture: ePharmacist Direct (ePD), which provides rural hospitals with 24-hour access to the services of licensed clinical pharmacists. Since 2009, ePD has provided real-time, virtual medication order review and verification and clinical intervention services from a central site in Fargo, ND.

Hospitals, especially small and rural hospitals, may not be able to process medication orders as needed during peak hours, when pharmacists are on vacation or leave, or if they are unable to recruit enough pharmacists. VHS’ ePD fills the gap at a significantly lower cost than if the hospitals were to hire additional pharmacists.

Whenever a local pharmacist is not on-site, patient medication orders are processed or verified by the telepharmacists at ePD. An ePD clinical pharmacist consults with the on-site nurse, technician, provider or patient as necessary. A nurse or technician may verify or prepare the medication under the direct visual supervision of the ePharmacist Direct pharmacist.

"It's a huge contributor to patient safety," said Shelley Johnsen, RPh, director of ePD. "Performing medication reviews, checking for interactions and adjusting doses helps prevent adverse events and increase patients' level of safety while in the hospital."

VHS' ePD now serves 27 hospitals, including 14 CHI hospitals and 13 external to the system, in Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota and Oregon. "Becoming part of CHI's Virtual Health Services gave us the resources we needed to grow," said Johnsen. "We now have dedicated IT support for our unique audio-visual technology platform, and support from CHI Legal Services. These resources are especially helpful with customers that are external to CHI."

VHS' ePD is preparing to add even more customers. "We'll be installing new central order management software, which is going to optimize our workflow and contribute significantly to efficiency," said Johnsen. "That will help us add to our network of customers. It's definitely an exciting time to be here."

For more information about ePharmacist Direct, contact Shelley Johnsen.