Tele-pharmacy in rural Scotland : a proof of concept study

, ed. (2017) Tele-pharmacy in rural Scotland : a proof of concept study. International Journal of Pharmacy Practice, 25 (3). pp. 210-219. ISSN 0961-7671

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    Introduction: Technology enables medical services to be provided to rural communities. This proof of concept study assessed the feasibility and acceptability of delivering community pharmacy services (CPS; including advice, sale of over-the-counter products and dispensing of prescriptions) by tele-technology (the Telepharmacy Robotic Supply Service (TPRSS)) to a rural population in Scotland. Methods: Data collection included the following: postal surveys to local residents; focus groups/ interviews with pharmacists, other healthcare professionals (HCPs) and service users, at baseline and follow-up; TPRSS logs. Interviews/focus groups were audio-recorded, transcribed and thematically analysed. Descriptive statistics were reported for survey data. Results: Qualitative results: Pre-installation: residents expressed satisfaction with current pharmacy access. HCPs believed the TPRSS would improve pharmacy access and reduce pressure on GPs. Concerns included costs, confidentiality,patient safety and 'fear' of technology. Post-installation: residents and pharmacy staff were positive, finding the service easy to use. Quantitative results: Pre-installation: almost half the respondents received regular prescription medicines and a third used an over-the-counter (OTC) medicine at least monthly. More than 80% (124/156) reported they would use the TPRSS. There was low awareness of the minor ailment service (MAS; 38%; 59/156). Post-installation: prescription ordering and OTC medicine purchase were used most frequently; the video link was used infrequently. Reasons for non-use were lack of need (36%;40/112) and linkage to only one pharmacy (31%; 35/112). Discussion: Community pharmacy services delivered remotely using tele-technology are feasible and acceptable. A larger study should be undertaken to confirm the potential of the TPRSS to reduce health inequalities in rural areas.