Jill Sederstrom is a Contributing Editor
Pharmacists need to stay informed about new technologies in order to help diabetic patients take advantage.
New diabetes technology will give patients access to more data about their health status and will add convenience and customization to management strategies. But pharmacists will need to stay informed about these new advances in order to help patients prepare for the changes ahead.
"I think that's a big piece of what pharmacists do is educate the patient not only on their disease but on the options that are out there," says Jonathan Marquess, PharmD, CDE, FAPhA, president of the Institute for Wellness and Education, Inc. and owner of 10 independent pharmacies in the Georgia area.
Industry experts say that as diabetes technology continues to advance, the tools patients rely on each day to help them manage their disease-whether they are glucose monitors, insulin pens, or pumps-are also expected to evolve.
David T. Ahn, MD, endocrinologist and assistant clinical professor of medicine at UCLA, says that in the future, tools previously used to treat type 1 diabetes will become more accessible for those with the type 2.
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In 2017, Abbott announced the approval of the FreeStyle Libre Flash Glucose Monitoring System. The device is distinctive because it uses a sensor placed on the upper arm.
According to Ahn, the Freestyle Libre is a more affordable continuous monitoring system, making it a more appealing treatment option for more patients. "It really hits a convenience and price sweet spot for patients and insurers," he says. For many type 2 diabetes patients, the device may be the first time they are able to trace their blood glucose levels throughout the day.
In the next few years, more patch pumps are expected to hit the market, Ahn says. The V-Go wearable insulin delivery device is here already and delivers a steady rate of basal insulin, while allowing the patient to administer a meal-time dose of insulin.
Another theme in new technology is the ability to electronically track patient data. More wireless glucose meters are also smartphone compatible, allowing patients and health professional to keep diaries and logs for insulin, activity, diet, and blood glucose levels, Ahn says.
Smart insulin pens that automatically capture the date, time, and dose of insulin delivered will also help patients keep better records.
Up next: Adherence in the pharmacy
In pharmacies, more sophisticated software is allowing pharmacists to better track patient adherence and plan interventions for patients in need. For example, McKesson Pharmacy Technology and Services' Adherence Performance Solution tracks when medications are dispensed and assesses whether any days of therapy are missed.
"The adherence tool does a lot of analytics and also provides a detailed views of that patient's profile and patient handouts they could use to engage with their patients," says Heather Cusick, RPh, director of product management for clinical services at McKesson. The program is often used in combination with the company's Clinical Program Solution, which takes the data and works it into a pharmacy's work flow, she says.
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Further down the road, Ahn said the industry will see a gradual movement toward closed-loop or artificial pancreas systems that strive to mimic a healthy body's normal activity.
Other potential advances include noninvasive ways to monitor glucose. Apple is said to be working on such a device, but no details have been made public.
Pharmacists can play a role in the years ahead by helping patient's navigate through new treatment options and helping them tailor a treatment approach that works best for them, Marquess says.