Navigating the New Frontier

Five Tips for Successful Telemedicine Appointments for Pharmacists

October 12, 2020
Dr. Amanda Phoenix

Dr. Amanda Phoenix is Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Practice, Ambulatory Care, at Touro College of Pharmacy (TCOP) and an Ambulatory Care Clinical Pharmacist at BronxCare Health System. She successfully implements telehealth for patients with diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol at two primary care outpatient clinics at Bronx Lebanon Hospital. Here she offers tips based on her insight and experience.

1. Get the Necessary Equipment

The key to telemedicine is to have the right equipment! When communicating via telephone or video, it is absolutely critical to have a strong internet connection and/or phone service. Have IT contact information available to resolve any technological issues that arise, which could potentially result in miscommunication of the information to the patient or delayed appointment times. In order to maintain patient confidentiality, consider working in a private room or wear headphones to prevent others from overhearing the conversation, and make sure the patient is located somewhere he/she feels comfortable sharing private information. Additionally, you will need access to the medical record, patient information, interpreter services, and a microphone.

2. Turn On Your Video

Although telemedicine appointments vary significantly from in-person visits, one way to simulate a face-to-face appointment is through video appointments. Turning on your video has several benefits including developing a rapport with the patient, providing insight into the patient’s home environment and ensuring the patient is providing his/her full attention. It can ensure patients are using home monitoring devices correctly and help with patient education. Additionally, from a billing perspective, video appointments generate higher revenue compared to telephone encounters. ProTip: Check with your health care system to find out the approved telemedicine portals.

3. Review Medications and Home Readings

One benefit of telemedicine is that the patient will likely be at home and have access to his/her medications and home readings. Take advantage of the opportunity to review medications, identify and resolve any drug-related issues, answer medication-related questions and assess adherence to medications. Home readings can provide valuable information regarding disease control and the need for titration, tapering, initiation or discontinuation of medications.

4. Utilize Your Resources

Telemedicine presents several challenges that need to be overcome. The usual way of providing education, counseling about a new medication or demonstrating how to use a medication or device will need to be changed. Fortunately, many drug manufacturers and credible health care sites have helpful information and videos that can support your educational sessions and provide patients with advice even after your appointment. ProTip: Use education material produced by credible sources to ensure accurate and patient-friendly health information is disseminated.

5. Confirm Understanding

Due to the challenges of telemedicine presented above (technological failure, communication barriers, etc.), it is crucial to confirm understanding regarding what the patient says and what you say to him/her. One technique to ensure patient understanding is called the “teach-back method” and involves asking the patient to repeat how he/she will take the medications. It provides an opportunity to identify anything the patient may have misunderstood and ensure the patient can take the prescribed medications safely at home. Another way to reduce miscommunication is to have the patient write down your instructions and phone number to contact you with any questions. Additionally, you can mail the patient your instructions and educational materials so she/he can access at any time.