A new law that allows patients to be prescribed medicine from a pharmacist via video chat was signed into law last month, reshaping the landscape of how patients throughout the state of Michigan can acquire their prescriptions.
The law will allow a parent pharmacist to monitor up to two remote pharmacies staffed by pharmacy technicians. The monitoring will be done real time with data, audio and video telecommunication.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the bill, Senate Bill 340, which supporters say will help cut travel distances and health care costs to both patients and pharmacies in rural areas. Naysayers, however, have argued that the bill would further open the door to easy opioid access while lacking in safeguards.
State Sen. Curt VanderWall (R-Ludington), one of the bill’s sponsors, commented following the signing of the bill.
“Today, Michigan joined the ranks of more than 20 states that allow for remote pharmacies," VanderWall said, as reported by The Center Square. "This measure will give additional options to pharmacists to open pharmacies in rural areas and provide increased access to Michigan residents.”
The bill not only allows licensed pharmacists to both visually monitor and review medication dispensation but to ensure that remote pharmacies are appropriately staffed with qualified technicians while conducting video chats with patients.
“Ultimately the benefit is our northern rural communities that have no access to pharmacists or prescription drugs or the knowledge, and the pharmacist will now have that opportunity if a parent pharmacy that appeals can open in that community,” VanderWall said, as reported by The Center Square.
Remote pharmacies must be located more than 10 miles away from a regular pharmacy, unless they obtain a special waiver from regulators, and are limited to dispensing an average of 150 prescriptions a day. A designated pharmacist can be in charge of three pharmacies, including two remotely.
The law is backed by the Michigan Pharmacists Association, Cardinal Health and hospitals across the state, among other health groups, and is set to take effect this spring.