Technology Benefits Public Health

May 9, 2012

Last week, the State Senate voted unanimously to support legislation that would bring quality care closer to patients’ homes. Specifically, the bill would enable hospitals in our state to use telepharmacy to disperse sterile products. These products are defined as any drug that is compounded, manipulated or otherwise prepared under sterile conditions, such as an intravenous (IV) medication. It is not intended to be self-administered by a patient but rather for use in a hospital or similar location. This proposal would build upon a successful pilot program that was initiated last year and has since proven its potential to help patients.

Now awaiting the Governor’s signature, House Bill 5329, “An Act Concerning The Use Of Telepharmacy By Hospitals,” would allow all of our state’s hospitals to participate in similar telepharmacy initiatives on a permanent basis, as long as they uphold the same quality standards outlined in the current pilot program and are in compliance with DCP pharmacy regulations.

During last year’s legislative session, the General Assembly passed a law permitting the state Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) to form a telepharmacy pilot program at one Connecticut hospital and its satellite locations with consultation from the state Department of Public Health (DPH). In January, the DCP approved the plan and a program was established at Yale-New Haven Hospital that continues to operate and serve patients.

The program allows patients to receive IV care and treatment closer to their homes with a licensed pharmacist providing real-time audio and visual review of a pharmacy technician working at the satellite location. In addition, the technician is also required to take photographs of the sterile products at each step of the process for real-time review and verification by the pharmacist and for long-term technical storage and quality review of the products. Sometimes transporting patients from their home to the hospital can do more harm than simply providing the medication nearby with greater comfort.

As Ranking Senator of the General Law Committee, I listened to the outpouring of support for this legislation during a public hearing in March. From Farmington to Hartford to Norwalk, hospitals throughout our state testified in support of the measure. After seeing the success of the pilot program, I agree that telepharmacy is a promising solution to increase patients’ access to these important medical products. It should also be noted that there were no sources of opposition during the hearing. Our committee unanimously supported the proposal before it was sent to the Public Health Committee and ultimately passed in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

This legislation is an excellent example of how technology can improve the health and wellbeing of residents in our state. With these safeguards and licensed pharmacist oversight, telepharmacy promises to provide patients with their medical needs and solve any potential staffing issues between hospitals and satellite locations. I look forward to considering further common sense solutions that can improve the lives of families throughout our state.