Pharmacists Will Play Critical Role in Helping Patients Navigate Digital Therapeutics


With the rise of prescription digital therapeutics, pharmacists will need to prepare to manage the new paradigms of care.

As digital therapeutics become increasingly popular, pharmacists will play an important role in helping patients navigate their options, according to a commentary published in the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association.1

Prescription digital therapeutics are software that deliver clinical interventions which have been approved by the FDA. These therapies, which come in the form of smartphone or web-based apps, can be used with medications or as stand-alone treatments. They can treat, monitor or diagnose many different conditions, including diabetes, asthma, and psychiatric illness.2

Because pharmacists will most likely be dispensing or directly supporting the use of prescription digital therapeutics, it’s critical that they have the requisite knowledge so they can answer any questions patients might. This means pharmacists will need to undergo education and training in digital therapeutics.

“Today’s pharmacists work in a wide range of clinical settings and organizational structures, including integrated delivery networks, coordinated care structures, and life science industry, and in the traditional setting of neighborhood pharmacies,” the authors wrote. “Prescription digital therapeutics will be increasingly integrated into patient care across all of these settings; thus, pharmacists must prepare to manage the new paradigms of care.”

Companies such as NightWare and Akili already have approved apps on mobile devices to treat substance use disorder, PTSD and ADHD. Typically, a clinician will prescribe one of the digital therapeutics, which a patient then downloads. They can be helped with any of the steps via a voice call or online chat function.

Once downloaded, the app may have a dashboard where clinicians can monitor the patients progress throughout the length of the prescription. The content of the apps is usually delivered through programs like self-guided interactive lessons, animations, illustrations, quizzes to test and enhance user knowledge, or video-based expert explanations.

There are several ways in which pharmacists may interact with patients using prescription digital therapeutics. The first and most obvious is that many patients using these programs will also be taking prescription medications. Pharmacists will likely receive information about a medication change from a clinician monitoring a patients progress on a program.

Pharmacists may also use data from a digital therapeutic to ensure adherence to standards of care, like making sure a patient who’s prescribed buprenorphine receives behavioral treatment through a digital therapeutic. Lastly, pharmacists may help a patient with questions about a digital therapeutics functioning or how they can obtain a prescription renewal.

The authors noted that by learning about prescription digital therapeutics and integrating them into their practice, pharmacists will be able to help patients with new therapeutics and improve the efficacy, availability, and quality of treatments for a host of debilitating disorders.

“The marriage of digital health tools and traditional pharmaceutical treatments is well underway, with the line between them growing increasingly blurry,” the authors wrote. “It is likely that in the future pharmacists, along with other health care providers, will operate in a world that seamlessly blends both digital and physical care to more effectively treat patients in need.”

1. Shafai G, Aungst TD. Prescription digital therapeutics: A new frontier for pharmacists and the future of treatment. J Am Pharm Assoc. Published online 2023. doi:10.1016/j.japh.2023.03.012.
2. Wang C, Lee C, Shin H. Digital therapeutics from bench to bedside. NPJ Digit Med. 2023;6(1):38. doi:10.1038/s41746-023-00777-z.
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