Aurora brings telepharmacies to Milwaukee area

CREATED Feb 13, 2013

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MILWAUKEE - Next time you pick up a prescription, there may not be a pharmacist behind the counter. A major medical group in our area connecting pharmacists with patients using video chat, and critics say the personal connection is lost.

A lot of us skype or facetime with our friends and family. But now, if you get your prescriptions filled at the Aurora Center by the airport, you’ll talk to the pharmacist by video chat.

The industry calls them telepharmacists.

Behind the counter, a pharmacist reviews a prescription over a video feed. The tech fills the prescription while the pharmacist looks on from somewhere else.

On the other side of the counter, the pharmacist gives instructions to the patient.

“It helps have one pharmacist oversee two or three different stores at the same time,” said Alex Yampolsky, Aurora’s manager of pharmacy remote dispensing

Aurora already has 14 telepharmacies and plans to add more.

“At first we thought maybe we would lose that personal touch, but it really isn’t the case because patients get to know the pharmacist on screen,” Yampolsky said. “It’s usually the same pharmacist.”

Wisconsin is one of only a few states that allows this. The original idea was that it would bring pharmacy services to remote areas.

“It can be done over audio and visual, but it’s not the same,” said Curt Gielow, Concordia University’s School of Pharmacy Executive Dean.

“To put these in the convenience of metro markets, metro areas like the Milwaukee area, I’m a little more suspect of that,” he said.

Dennis Urbaniak regularly gets his medications filled by a telepharmacist.

“It works,” said Dennis Urbaniak of Milwaukee. “Being an old man, I don’t like change. But, I’m adapting.”

So far, the law only allows these pharmacist video chats at what are called prescription dispensing centers in hospital groups, so don’t expect to see this at your neighborhood CVS or Walgreens anytime soon.