Technology use in healthcare is growing with the increased use of electronic health records and health informatics, and pharmacy is no exception. Pharmacists should embrace the innovations technology can offer in order to enhance patient engagement, improve workflows, increase patient safety, and simplify communication.
Automation and Patient Engagement
One of the biggest challenges consumers face is incorporating complex and multiple medication regimens into their daily lives. “It’s important to design behavioral and therapeutic interventions that engage patients throughout their journey from their first prescription fill through refill,” says Omri Shor, co-founder and chief executive officer, Medisafe, a medication management platform. Today, various platforms assist with dosing, how to take specific medications such as injections, and how to mitigate adverse effects.
For example, Shor recommends designing interventions for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor patients in the beginning of treatment that reinforce adherence, since patients may not initially feel a medication’s effects because it takes time to titrate. Interventions might include digital messages, reminders, or even surveys through the company’s app to understand a patient’s needs. Equally important is educational content about medication applications, such as how to properly inject medications, connections to care support, and condition-related measurement trackers.
Another technology gaining popularity is the central fill automation machine, which can fill medicines in high volumes in lieu of a technician or pharmacist, says Elizabeth Unni, PhD, MBA, BPharm, chair and associate professor, Social, Behavioral, and Administrative Sciences, Touro College of Pharmacy, New York.
Central fill automation machines are especially beneficial for medication refills: Based on the first fill of a medication, subsequent fills are automatically filled for verification and dispensing. In addition to lowering operating costs and reducing dispensation errors, this can save significant time for pharmacists, allowing them to work on more clinical aspects of medication dispensing, such as patient counseling or medication therapy review.
Automation isn’t only for pharmacists, however. Machines can now dispense medicines for patients, similar to vending machines. Instead of waiting at the pharmacy window for a technician or pharmacist to hand over a bag of medicine, a patient can access a machine inside the pharmacy, Unni says. Pharmacy personnel scan and load filled medicine bags into the machine.
If a patient is interested in using the machine, they are registered within the pharmacy and given a unique pin number to access their medication bag and pay electronically for their medicine. Before receiving their medication, a patient must accept or decline counseling by the pharmacist. If counseling is requested, the patient can pick up a phone located on the machine and be connected to a pharmacist. “These machines can make prescription dispensing windows less crowded and allow patients to pick up their medications at their own convenience, as long as the store is open, even when a pharmacy is closed,” Unni says.
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