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Tele-pharmacy in remote medical practice: the Royal Flying Doctor Service Medical Chest Program

Submitted: 10 January 2008
Revised: 2 May 2008
Published: 19 May 2008

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Author(s) : Margolis SA, Ypinazar VA.

Stephen MargolisValmae Ypinazar

Citation: Margolis SA, Ypinazar VA.  Tele-pharmacy in remote medical practice: the Royal Flying Doctor Service Medical Chest Program . Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2008; 8: 937. Available: (Accessed 17 October 2017)


In recent times remote medical practice has been developed into a unique discipline in its own right with telehealth one of the eight defining key features. Since 1942, the telemedicine consultation service provided by the Royal Flying Doctor Service in Australia has been supported by a tele-pharmacy program known as the Medical Chest Program. The contents of the chest comprise more than 85 items, including medications and equipment which can be prescribed during a telehealth consultation to cover both emergency care and definitive treatment for less serious conditions. By 2006 there were 3500 medical chests placed throughout Australia. Specifically, the state of Queensland had 21 470 telehealth consultations from 1 July 2005 to 30 June 2006, resulting in the prescription of at least one medical chest item in 2938 (13.7%) consultations. Queensland data regarding medication indicate that antibiotics (26%), analgesics (23%) and gastrointestinal medications (12%) were the most common categories of dispensed medications, and that the most common clinical diagnostic categories for the consultation resulting in dispensed medications were respiratory (17%), skin (15%) and abdominal conditions (13%). In summary, the RFDS medical chest program continues to be a successful large scale provider of medications to those living in remote Australia, enabling early access to medications for both emergencies and definitive care, while minimising the need for mail-order pharmacy or patient travel. This model of care may provide an important template for those designing service delivery models in other remote jurisdictions.

Key words: Australia, remote medicine, tele-pharmacy, telehealth, telemedicine.

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