Virtual Clinical Pharmacy Service

Providing access to clinical pharmacy in rural and remote facilities

Western New South Wales Local Health District

Published 24 May 2021. Last updated 11 November 2022.

Western New South Wales Local Health District (WNSWLHD) and Far West Local Health District (FWLHD) comprise some of the most remote regions in NSW. Most small hospitals in WNSWLHD and FWLHDs are geographically isolated and dispersed, without sufficient patient volumes to sustain an onsite pharmacy service.

The VCPS was established through an NSW Ministry of Health Translational Research Grant to demonstrate the use of virtual clinical pharmacy to improve the delivery of safe and high-quality healthcare regardless of patient location

Removing barriers to quality clinical pharmacy services

The Virtual Clinical Pharmacy Service (VCPS) provides health facilities in Western NSW and Far West Local Health Districts with clinical pharmacy services where there is no onsite access. Virtual clinical pharmacists provide safe and high-quality medication management, regardless of where a patient is admitted. The VCPS aims to reduce medication-related harm, improve communication at transfer of care, empower patients and improve medication compliance.

VCPS pharmacists virtually undertake clinical pharmacy activities consistent with the Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia (SHPA) Standards of Practice for Hospital Pharmacy including:

  • patient prioritisation and recognition of patients at high risk of medication-related harm
  • best possible medication history (BPMH) and medication reconciliation at transitions of care
  • assessment of a patient’s medications and clinical review
  • documentation of a patient-specific medication management plan (MMP) which includes documentation of medication-related issues or recommendations.

Consultation is key

Clinical leaders within the organisation were engaged and consulted early in the project design. A VCPS governance committee was established consisting of an executive sponsor, key operational directors, clinical lead, telehealth manager, Aboriginal health representatives, pharmacy subject matter experts, finance manager, and representatives from NSW Health pillar organisations the Clinical Excellence Commission, the Agency for Clinical Innovation and eHealth.

The VCPS model was developed in consultation with the above stakeholders, health researchers, information communication technology (ICT) teams and pharmacists. The result was a patient centred model that meets the needs of both the patient and health service.

Local community pharmacists were consulted prior to the service being implemented in their communities. This gave local pharmacists the opportunity to understand the role of VCPS and discuss opportunities to collaborate to improve medication management.

Increase responsiveness and access to advice

Activity measures indicate the VCPS has significant service uptake at all hospitals.

PREM surveys are collected from patients prior to discharge. The PREM results have been very positive indicating patients have a high degree of satisfaction with communication and their overall experience.

Staff feedback from focus group has been positive with staff reporting few barriers to implementation. Some of the reported benefits include improved access to specialist medication advice; responsiveness; increased safety and confidence with medications; improved compliance with antimicrobial stewardship and NSQHS Standards.

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