The pharmacist as educator: Healthcare technology

November 10, 2014

As healthcare educators, pharmacists can help patients learn to use the new health-maintenance technologies.

In early September, I had the opportunity to attend the annual Congress of the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP), held in steamy Bangkok, Thailand. This year’s conference focused on availability of medications, distribution of healthcare workers, and management of large amounts of data and information accessible to both patients and healthcare workers.

One of the sessions I attended was titled “Incorporating innovations: Use of technology in the provision of pharmacy services and pharmaceutical care.” During this session, presenter Cody Midlam, PharmD, CGP, discussed the topic of “What does a 21st century, technologically savvy pharmacist look like?”

Programs and apps

During his presentation, Midlam addressed a number of technologies that have been developed over the past few years - their impact on communications between patient and pharmacist; potential areas for costs savings; and use of these tools in therapy and to monitor medication.

There are literally hundreds of programs and apps out there to help patients take their meds. Historically (or over the past 50 years), medication reminder technology consisted of pill boxes and days-of-the-week organizers. As we become more and more wired-in and connected to our smart phones and tablets, the ability of technology to aid in medication management becomes more of a reality.

Many of the apps out there focus on medication refills or adherence. Some will alert patients to request refills on their medications, while others may either remind patients to take their medications or ask whether they have already taken them.

Some older devices, such as glucometers, blood pressure monitors, and scales have seen an upgrade through technological innovation as well. If patients wish to share their information remotely, they can send data from blood pressure readings, blood glucose results, or their recent weight measurements to their healthcare providers in a streamlined, efficient manner.

 

Outcomes and costs

Healthcare reform is a particularly juicy topic these days, and one of its overarching goals is an increase in quality of care, along with implementation of cost savings.

Use of effective technologies is an essential piece of this puzzle, and when that use is combined with patient engagement, it is certainly a step in the right direction.

In this participatory model of care, patients, professionals, and caregivers are able to access important patient-specific information, a practice that ideally would result in fewer medical errors, improved patient satisfaction, and decreased cost of care.

Changes and improvements

The big take-home message from Midlam’s presentation is that over the next decade, numerous changes will affect pharmacy, in regard to both the technology we will be using and the manner in which we will be reimbursed for services.

Community pharmacy has the potential to be an excellent example of an emerging healthcare model that focuses on improved outcomes and decreased costs, while evolving technologies will aid in improving efficiency.

This is not to say that there will not be growing pains along the way. New technology (particularly within the pharmacy) is not perfect, and we will need to be creative in adapting and using it. There will certainly be a learning curve, but I have no doubt that creative and resourceful pharmacists the world over will maximize the potential gains to be made in patient services in the years to come.

 

Teachers and advocates

Finally, as gatekeepers of medication and health information, it is our role in the community to participate and learn as much as possible about the emerging healthcare model. By becoming advocates of these new technologies, pharmacists continue to serve as educators for our patients.

Take the time to teach your patients about apps and technologies that can improve medication adherence.

Instruct some of your less technologically savvy patients (or coworkers) how to use some of the myriad options available for monitoring disease states.

Go out there and show people that new technology doesn’t have to be intimidating or difficult!

A frequent contributor to Drug Topics, Joel Claycomb specializes in reports from far-flung locations. Contact him at jcclaycomb@gmail.com.