By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW/AW) Felicito Rustique, Navy Public Affairs Support Element - East Detachment Europe
June 25, 2010 - NAPLES, Italy (NNS) -- Naval Support Activity (NSA) Naples' pharmacy departments at U.S. Naval Hospital Naples and its branch clinic at Capodichino are using a video conferencing method referred to as "telepharmacing."
Telepharmacing enables pharmacists to communicate in real time with Navy corpsmen and customers while a pharmacist is at a different location.
"Telepharmacing helps our facilities meet new government guidelines requiring a pharmacist to review and approve all prescriptions dispensed to patients," said Lt. Cmdr. Michael Cleveland, one of two pharmacists assigned to U.S. Naval Hospital Naples. "The Navy has many small branch clinics where it's impractical and inefficient to staff them with a pharmacist so this technology is used to cover those locations."
The branch clinic at Capodichino is one such location. The pharmacy there is staffed with two Sailors, Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class (AW) Donna May Rigby and Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class John McCallum. Because of the guidelines Cleveland mentioned, Rigby and McCallum can't hand out prescriptions they fill until one of the pharmacists assigned to U.S. Naval Hospital Naples gives a final approval.
Rigby said before telepharmacing came into action, getting that approval meant having to do "retro-checks." A duty driver had to physically take prescriptions from Capodichino over to the base hospital. Retro-checks delayed prescriptions and involved hand-written tracking. Telepharmacing, however, saves time and money and final approval can happen instantaneously with the click of a button.
"At first we didn't know what to expect with the telepharmacing equipment, but now it's definitely made life easier," said Rigby. "We're faster when it comes to dispensing medications, which means an increase in overall production and customer satisfaction."
The telepharmacing system connects the pharmacies to each other with a touch screen monitor, a headset and a microphone. Medicine and inventories can be tracked and pictures of prescriptions can be stored. Rigby said customers can even video chat with a pharmacist if they have concerns about their prescriptions.
"We're able to pull up numbers on what medications we have and what we've dispensed," said Rigby. "The system helps with overall supply management and better accountability while being user friendly. I also like the fact that we can interface with a pharmacist at the hospital if there's a question."
"I'm very happy with it," said Cleveland. "It provides increased patient safety and maximizes efficient utilization of Navy resources."
The telepharmacing system at NSA Naples has been up and running since May 2010.