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NineStar Connect Helps Tele-Pharmacies Fill Medical Services Void In Rural Towns | NEWS-Line for Healthcare Professionals

NineStar Connect Helps Tele-Pharmacies Fill Medical Services Void In Rural Towns


Rural communities are used to dealing with occasional droughts that can impact the health of farm crops, but the lack of retail pharmacies in these small communities is creating pharmacy deserts that can impact the life and well-being of rural residents, according to studies. In Indiana, local utility cooperative NineStar Connect is stepping in to help solve the problem.

NineStar Connect, a utility co-op serving rural Hancock County, Ind., has teamed up with Medicap Pharmacy to provide the utility infrastructure necessary to open and operate a tele-pharmacy in Morristown, Ind., population 1,300.

Like many rural communities across the United States, Morristown, Ind. was considered a pharmacy desert, a community without nearby access to pharmacies.

Over the last 16 years, more than 1,200 independently owned rural pharmacies (16.1 percent) in the United States have closed according to a Rural Policy Brief by RUPRI Center for Rural Health Policy Analysis.

The study found that 630 rural communities with at least one retail pharmacy in March 2003 had no retail pharmacy in March 2018. These pharmacy deserts cause a hardship to residents, especially the elderly, who must travel long distances to have their prescriptions filled.

“It’s difficult to make a business case for a pharmacy in communities this small,” said David Bush, a registered pharmacist and owner of Medicap Pharmacy in Greenfield, Ind.

When Bush learned that the only pharmacy in Morristown had closed and that the sole healthcare clinic relocated out of the area, he decided something had to be done to fill the void. His idea was to open a tele-pharmacy, which works by staffing the facility with a certified pharmacy technician, who is monitored via a video link by a pharmacist located at a larger facility.

In January 2019, Bush opened the Medicap tele-pharmacy in Morristown, about 10 miles away from his brick and mortar location in Greenfield, Ind., where a licensed pharmacist oversees the remote technician. The pharmacist uses video to check the prescription for accuracy, and can video chat with patients to provide counseling on the medication and answer any questions.

Because Morristown also lacked a health clinic, patients can come into the Medicap tele-pharmacy to video chat with a doctor, who can diagnose certain health conditions and write a prescription that can be filled right away.

Tele-pharmacies have special technology needs, namely reliable fiber connections to enable the video monitoring and chat, and HIPAA complaint tele-pharmacy software.

“NineStar Connect played an integral role in providing a high speed fiber connection between the tele-pharmacy and our main location,” said Bush. “Having access to fiber communications in a rural community allowed us to open a facility that is cost-effective to operate, solves the pharmacy desert issue, and gives residents a clinic for minor ailments.”

Source:NineStar Connect

Photo Credit:photo courtesy of Morristown Pharmacy

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