Drug Discov Ther. 2021;15(6):337-340. (DOI: 10.5582/ddt.2021.01102)
Telepharmacy in mountainous depopulated areas of Japan: An exploratory interview study of patients' perspectives
Matsumoto Y, Kizaki H, Ikeda Y, Nakamura S, Kina S, Nagai T, Nasu T, Miyamoto K, Hori S
Japan has an ageing population and geographical impediments to healthcare access, so an experimental trial of telepharmacy has recently been implemented in remote islands or remote areas of Japan prior to the formal implementation. This exploratory study was conducted to understand patients’ perspectives on telepharmacy in a mountainous depopulated area away from urban areas of Japan. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with four elderly patients, who were all of the patients receiving telepharmacy in Toyone village, Japan, at the time of the survey. The transcribed interview data were qualitatively analyzed by coding and categorization. The subjects thought telepharmacy would be advantageous to overcome poor access to a clinic and to improve convenience in processes ranging from medical examination to obtaining prescribed medicines. However, they pointed out the low digital literacy of the elderly. Also, they had low expectations for pharmacists, because they had previously had no relationship with pharmacists due to lack of pharmacies in the area. To promote telepharmacy, efforts to eliminate resistance to smartphones and to provide support for smartphone operations are needed among the elderly. Work is also needed to establish how pharmacists should best be involved in patient care and health support in remote areas. Our findings suggest that telepharmacy is useful in remote areas of Japan, but in locations where there is no existing relationship with pharmacists, it would be desirable for pharmacists to be actively involved with the community to maximize its effectiveness.