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Tools to help pharmacies manage medications

It seems obvious doesn’t it? Pharmacists are the acknowledged experts at handling medicines. They spend years training for it, and all day long mixing medications and checking for contraindications, mistakes, oversights, etc.. So it is often with shock that a newbie to the medical industry reacts when finding out that because pharmacies have traditionally only been reimbursed for dispensing medicine, they have taken a backseat to your GP or specialist in terms of managing patient medications.

However, things are beginning to change. There are some really interesting things afoot with pharmacies…

Some pharmacies in New Zealand are now managing Warfarin. “15 pharmacies nationwide now carry out “standing orders” to decide what doses of the blood thinning drug warfarin patients should receive.”

And in the United States, pharmacists are partnering with health groups to assist in patient outcomes “Some health plans are even paying pharmacists to monitor patients taking regular medications for chronic illnesses like diabetes or heart disease”. “We are not just going to dispense your drugs,” said David Pope, a pharmacist at Barney’s. “We are going to partner with you to improve your health as well.”

In both New Zealand and the United States, Adherence rates stand at only 50% (the number of people who take their medications as prescribed), which the NY Times article above says costs nearly $300 billion a year in emergency room visits, hospital stays, and medical expenditures.
But as the pharmacists take on the increased role of managing medicines, they are going to face a challenge: accessing a complete and continuous drug record for the individuals in their care. This is due not just to incomplete and disparate data silos, but in a country such as New Zealand it is common for people to fulfill their prescription at any pharmacy, which means that pharmacies cannot know what other prescriptions a patient may have received from another GP (or more).

In fact, as pharmacists move into the front line in helping people manage their medicines better, they are going to need more than just better tools for access, they are going to need better tools for capturing and displaying that data in a comprehensive and easily understandable manner. This has been an overlooked area of need, but one that we think will move increasingly into the limelight as health groups, insurers, employers, and indeed pharma themselves demand a more intuitive at-a-glance understanding of a person’s medication regime than the hodge-podge of data sets that are currently used.

In fact, I would wager that a few years from now, intuitive data displays will seem obvious, and we will all wonder how we managed to cope in the old days when data looked like….just data!

Yours in Health,

Hamish

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