New health app redefines pharmacist-patient relationship


With Spark Health, pharmacists can track patients' data, monitor their outcomes, and give them plenty of warm fuzzies, 21st-century-style.

How can community pharmacies survive in today’s demanding environment, challenged by preferred pharmacy networks, stagnant or declining reimbursements, and slimmer profit margins? For independents armed with the right

David Popetools and a well-rounded offering of clinical services, it is possible not only to survive but thrive, says David D. Pope, PharmD, CDE, chief of innovation at Creative Pharmacist. 

In July the Creative Pharmacist, which specializes in solutions for community pharmacies seeking to expand their clinical services, launched Spark Health, a new health app available at the App Store, to help clinical community pharmacists connect with patients, follow their progress, and provide accountability, encouragement, and support.

See also: Smartphone app directs patients to OTC meds

More than adherence

“Adherence is a great thing, and adherence is vital in what we do as pharmacists, but if we do it blindly - with the patient adherent to the medication, but with pharmacists not seeing the endpoint, such as blood pressure, to see if it is working - then we are holding patients accountable for medicine that may not be effective,” Pope said.

About a year ago, Pope and his partner in Creative Pharmacist, Dan Lawson,  an IT expert, embarked on a journey to develop a health app and platform that could connect patients and their progress - whether in weight loss,

management of cholesterol and blood pressure, or smoking cessation - with the pharmacist. The result is a user-friendly app with a simple user interface.

Through the Spark Health app and platform, the pharmacist receives weekly updates from patients detailing such lifestyle modifications as diet and exercise, potential side effects from medication, and readings of blood pressure, etc.

Patients can receive specially targeted messages through the app that help them achieve their goals for healthy eating, exercise, and blood pressure. Patients also can receive targeted interventions such as for weight loss, diabetes, or smoking-cessation through management classes that the pharmacy is offering.

See also: ASHP releases patient-data app for pharmacists

Conduit of change

The marketplace has shifted, Pope said. “Pharmacists have not traditionally received patient data, but now pharmacists can be that conduit of change, providing information on patients’ disease states and also encouragement and accountability. They can easily respond to patients,” he said.

With patient data collected from the Spark Health platform, such as notes, labs, and medications, pharmacists can spot trends and intervene before the 30-day refill period elapses or the patient appears on a report for suboptimal adherence. 

“By targeting chronic-care patients, such as those with type 2 diabetes, we can help them improve their health by encouraging gradual weight loss, good eating habits, and exercise through the app,” said Pope.

At Barney’s Pharmacy in Augusta, Ga., Pope has helped participants in an eight-week weight-loss class lose approximately one to two pounds per week. Using the tobacco-cessation program from the Centers from Disease Control and Prevention, he has helped develop a robust cessation program at Barney’s Pharmacy, using the app to augment it with encouragement from the pharmacist and help on how to quit.


Other features

The Spark Health app also provides patients with help in meal planning as well as exercise. The Meal Mixer offers hundreds of heart-healthy and diabetes-friendly recipes. If patients can’t find the food that they are craving, they can type in an ingredient, such as quinoa - a grain known for its high protein and fiber - and get a listing of hundreds of recipes to choose from.

Patients who want help with staying fit can find exercise routines through the app’s Exercise Mixer.

“We made every one of those videos on our own, with an exercise physiologist and some great people who wanted to come in and exercise on camera,” Pope said.

The Spark Health app is available for download from the App Store and soon will be available for Android smartphones as well. It also can be found online at Access to the app is available to those who join, which now serves more than 1,000 pharmacies nationwide.

“It’s time we rethink pharmacy and partner with our patients to improve their health,” Pope said.

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