“This is streets ahead of what we used to do”: staff perceptions of virtual clinical pharmacy services in rural and remote Australian hospitals
BMC Health Services Research
Background: The use of medications is the most common intervention in healthcare. However, unsafe medication practices and medication errors are a leading cause of injury and avoidable harm in healthcare systems across the world. A Virtual Clinical Pharmacy Service (VCPS) was introduced in rural and remote New South Wales public hospitals to support safe and effective use of medications. In this model clinical pharmacy services are delivered via a telehealth cart at the patient’s bedside and through electronic medical and pharmaceutical record systems. The aim of this research was to understand healthcare staff perspectives of the VCPS and identify areas for improvement. Methods: A qualitative approach informed by Appreciative Inquiry was used to investigate healthcare staff perceptions of the VCPS. Focus group discussions (n = 15) with hospital staff and medical officers were conducted via videoconference at each study site. Focus groups explored issues, benefits and barriers 3 months after service implementation. Transcribed data were analysed using thematic analysis and team discussion to synthesise themes. Results: Focus group participants identified the value of the VCPS to patients, to the health service and to themselves. They also identified enhancements to increase value for each of these groups. Perceived benefits to patients included access to specialist medication advice and improved medication knowledge. Staff valued access to an additional, trusted workforce who provided back-up and guidance. Staff also reported confidence in improved patient safety and identification of medication errors. Enhanced compliance with antimicrobial stewardship and hospital accreditation standards were beneficial to the health service. Suggested improvements included extending virtual service hours and widening patient eligibility to include aged care patients. Conclusions: The VCPS brought a positive, collegiate culture regarding medications. Healthcare staff perceived the VCPS was effective and an efficient way for the health service to supply pharmacy services to smaller hospitals. The ease of use, model of delivery, availability, local knowledge and responsiveness of highly skilled pharmacists was the key to user satisfaction. Trial registration: ANZCTR ACTRN12619001757101, 11/12/2019.
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