Video Conferencing and Technology Bring a Virtual Pharmacy to Earth
April 5, 2006
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 5, 2006
CONTACT: Suzanna Cisneros Martinez, firstname.lastname@example.org
LUBBOCK – Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center officially launched it second
telepharmacy project Wednesday (April 5). Residents of Earth, a community in northern
Lamb County that has no pharmacy, can now have prescriptions filled locally and speak
with a Health Sciences Center pharmacist in Lubbock via telepharmacy. The state-of-the
art video conferencing system is located at the Earth Medical Clinic, which is operated
by Sid Ontai, M.D., of Plainview.
When a prescription is written at the clinic, patients are immediately connected to
a Health Sciences Center pharmacist in Lubbock 60 miles away. Prepackaged drugs, already
located in the clinic in a vending type machine, are dispensed remotely by the distant
pharmacist. The pharmacist also counsels the patient and answers any questions. The
entire transaction takes place in a manner very similar to a retail pharmacy, only
the patient and pharmacist see each other via TV screens.
Don McBeath, director of telemedicine and rural health at the Health Sciences Center,
said the telepharmacy projects are another facet of the university’s outreach into
rural West Texas.
“Even when we successfully bring a doctor to a community or establish a telemedicine
connection, without the immediate availability of getting prescriptions filled, a
community remains underserved,” McBeath said. “Many communities are not large enough
to sustain a full-scale retail pharmacy. This is a great solution. It is a virtual
While mail order or online prescription purchases can be options, there is a delay
in receiving the drugs and there is no personal interaction with the pharmacist.
The telepharmacy project in Earth is the second for the Health Sciences Center. The
first project was in Turkey in September 2002, which was also the first telepharmacy
project in Texas. State law allows a retail pharmacy to establish a video conference
telepharmacy site in rural areas with no pharmacy. The concept is relatively new and
there are only three other telepharmacy sites in Texas.
The project also will serve to train pharmacy students on long-distance pharmacy systems
in rural areas and as a test site for telepharmacy operating models. Charles F. Seifert,
Pharm.D., regional dean for the School of Pharmacy in Lubbock, said the school is
the first in the United States that requires a telepharmacy and a rural clerkship.
“Telepharmacy provides the opportunity for pharmacists to work together with physicians
and other health care providers, and gives them a first-hand view of the needs of
rural communities,” Seifert said.
He added that the telepharmacy project in many ways could provide a higher quality
of care for the rural residents. “With this project, the pharmacist has the patient’s
medical records present and can provide an improved evaluation of the patient’s regimen,
as well as answer any questions the patient may have regarding their medications,”
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, along with the Merck Foundation, provides
funding for the Earth project. Telepharmacy Solutions of Vernon Hills, Ill., donated
the prescription dispensing equipment.