Technical literacy and digital etiquette are essential for teaching telehealth in pharmacy schools

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In addition to teaching students the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and other policies surrounding the use of telehealth, pharmacy students should learn technical skills and digital etiquette, according to a session at the ‘American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy Virtual Pharmacy Education Conference 2021.

According to session moderator Danielle Miller, PharmD, MEd, RPh, BCACP, pharmacists are reinventing the way they work in healthcare teams and how they can integrate this rapidly evolving field into pharmacy curricula . Although telehealth was first suggested 140 years ago in an article published by The Lancet, its practice has radically changed and continues to evolve constantly, according to the presenters.

“We need to prepare pharmacy students to know and understand the different forms of telehealth,” said presenter Pamela Stamm, PharmD, CDE, BCPS, BCACP, FASHP, associate professor at Harrison School of Pharmacy at Auburn University .

Stamm reviewed 6 different telehealth models and said students should be prepared for all of them. Electronic visits consist of messaging or email and may include the “store and forward” model, in which the patient takes a photo and sends it to the provider.

Remote patient monitoring is frequently used in diabetes and other chronic illnesses to monitor patient adherence, side effects, and other issues. Finally, Stamm said patients can also connect with providers via audio and video-only visits, or with case-based teleconferences that may include family members and caregivers.

While these models all use different forms of technology, Stamm said she has found skills that many students struggle with that may not immediately occur to instructors. These include managing passwords, incorporating new technologies, and using multiple screens rather than multiple windows. Notably, however, Stamm said the biggest challenge is dealing with all of these issues at once.

Presenter Tricia Gangoo-Dookham, PharmD, Clinical Assistant Professor at Nova Southeastern University College of Pharmacy, reviewed several other skills students need to know to communicate effectively through telehealth. These include digital etiquette, virtual communication skills, HIPAA compliance, and emergency care or triage via telehealth.

Digital health expectations should be established early in preparing students for an experiential environment. Unlike in-person tours, students need to make sure their cameras are on, their lighting is good, and their background is clear. These expectations can be set using modeling, discussions, vignettes, policies, simulation and practice.

Likewise, while patients may understand the communication skills necessary for in-person visits, virtual communication may differ. Students should prepare a greeting and closing message and can use a script if they find it useful, Gangoo-Dookham said. They should also inform the patient that they are taking notes or seeking information if they do not make eye contact, so that the patient does not feel ignored or disrespectful.

Ensuring HIPAA compliance is also extremely important when using telehealth. Students should verify privacy by using a headset or earphones, removing listening devices from the room, and documenting any security measures taken. Gangoo-Dookham added that they should verify the privacy of their computer, whether it’s using an encrypted device borrowed from their institution or using HIPAA-compliant software.

Finally, Gangoo-Dookham said patients should check the patient’s location and emergency contact information at the start of the call, in case emergency services are needed. Helping students work on what-if scenarios can also ensure they are prepared for unexpected changes during telehealth visits.

All of this information can be overwhelming, so having pre-session preparation is essential, according to presenter Kylie Barnes, PharmD, BCPS, associate clinical professor in the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Pharmacy. Students can be encouraged to use a script if they find it useful, and instructors can help them work on what-if scenarios in advance so that they feel prepared for any situation.

While many students may feel well prepared for face-to-face interactions with patients, telehealth can present new challenges and unexpected obstacles. However, by working properly in advance with students and giving them ample opportunity to practice, pharmacy students can be prepared for the future of the profession.

REFERENCE

Barnes K, Gangoo-Dookham T, Miller D, Stamm P. The Necessary Hub: Integrating Telehealth into the Pharmacy Curriculum. American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy Virtual Pharmacy Education 2021 Conference. July 19, 2021. Accessed July 19, 2021.


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