How innovative software, systems and mobile applications are empowering physicians and engaging patients.
This article was originally published in Dispensing Excellence, a publication by Avella Specialty Pharmacy.
Over the last decade, innovations such as mobile devices, “big data” algorithms and cloud-based software have dramatically altered the way that consumers make purchasing and lifestyle decisions. This is especially true in the retail, banking and entertainment industries. However, healthcare organizations have begun rapidly adopting these tools as well. That’s because new technologies can help patients better manage their health and make more informed choices about their care. Physicians are also using the latest technology to access and share important medical records and patient health data.
To align with these efforts, leading specialty pharmacies have introduced a variety of new systems, devices and applications that can foster greater collaboration and decision-making among care providers while also engaging patients themselves. These resources range from mobile apps that automate refill requests to software designed to streamline prescribing.
Software and systems that improve access to patient health data: Thanks to the recent explosive growth of electronic health records, more data about patient and population health is available than ever before. However, much of this data is still stored in silos across the healthcare industry. This means that lab, pharmacies, claims and clinical data from physicians is rarely available in one place. However, new provider portals and health information exchange (HIE) applications are starting to break down these barriers to drive greater information sharing. The ultimate goal is that all care providers will have access to complete “longitudinal” health records—which contain everything from a patient’s lab results, hospital records, medications, allergies and health risks.
Specialties pharmacies will play an important role in these efforts as information about medication adherence, drug interactions and new therapies can improve patient safety and help physicians identify ways to improve care. While much of this work is still in progress, provider portals such as the one offered by Avella, can offer physicians important insight about medication-related opportunities and challenges. These tools can drive greater collaboration between physicians and pharmacists, and ensure that a patient’s entire care team is up-to-date with the very latest data that is needed to improve their health.
Advanced analytics and clinical decision support tools: The analysis of all of this electronic data will also be important as the healthcare industry looks to better manage costs and improve the health of high-risk patient populations. Specifically, advanced analysis of patient health data matched with clinical best practices in prescribing can provide clinical-decision support for physicians at the point of care.
Given the sheer amount of medication options, and the new drugs that are released each year, it is not surprising that physicians can be overwhelmed by their prescribing options. New software is being developed that simplifies this process by analyzing critical data about patient health and using this insight to identify an ideal therapy. This is especially useful in the case of specialty medications, where many individuals have complex health histories due to multiple chronic illnesses.
Patient empowerment apps and tools: Patient portals and mobile applications are emerging as an important avenue to encourage patients to take an active role in their own healthcare as well. Did you know that the mobile health is currently a $23.8 billion industry, and is expected to reach $59.7 billion by 2018?2
The growth of mobile health in the specialty pharmacy space is no exception. Specialty pharmacies are introducing new devices and mobile apps designed to improve medication adherence. This is a critical opportunity given that patients do not fill 20% to 30% of prescriptions as written, and this non-adherence contributes to both poor patient outcomes and rising healthcare costs.3 Medication non-adherence can be due to a variety of issues, including cost, forgetfulness, concerns about side effects and poor health literacy, among others.
New technology is providing a variety of ways to encourage greater patient adherence, especially in senior or chronically ill populations. Forgetfulness can be a significant barrier for these individuals due to the sheer number of medications taken or complicating factors such as dementia. State-of-the-art adherence tools include applications and devices that use light, sound and/or text messages to remind patients when it is time to take their medicine. For example, GlowCap and GlowPack technology can be used by patients prescribed certain oncology medications. These prescription bottles and blister packs use flashing lights, tones and automated text messages as alerts. An early pilot program has demonstrated a 50% increase in medication adherence through the use of these innovative tools. Other programs enable the transmission of text messages to a mobile device, reminding patients to take any type of medication or fill an upcoming refill. A recent study conducted by Avella demonstrated a 29% increase in refill rates through the use of a text messaging reminder program.
Looking to the future of a rapidly changing industry: Recent advances in technology have forever altered the way that we as consumers interact with businesses, institutions and each other. The healthcare industry has a significant opportunity to capitalize on these trends by adopting new resources that can empower physicians and engage patients. In particular, specialty pharmacies have an important role to play in implementing new systems and devices that improve medication adherence, better inform care delivery, and add greater convenience to cumbersome manual processes.
Keeping pace with all of this new technology can be challenging for pharmacies and prescribers alike. But given the rewards in terms of improved care delivery, better health outcomes and greater efficiency, it is a challenge that will pay off significantly for everyone involved in patient care.
Discover more technology software, systems and mobile applications in the specialty pharmacy industry by downloading Dispensing Excellence.
1. mHealth Stats: Mobile Apps, Devices and Solutions. December 10, 2013. www.electronichealthreporter.com/mhealth-stats-mobile-apps-devices-and-solutions/
2. Wireless health market poised for growth. Healthcare IT News. September 16, 2013. www.healthcareitnews.com/news/wireless-health-market-poised-growth
3. Peterson AM, Takiya L, Finley R. Meta-analysis of trials of interventions to improve medication adherence. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2003;60:657-65. [PMID: 12701547]