The Role of Technology in Improving Patient Outcomes in Pharmacy

Technology is rapidly changing the way medicines are prescribed, administered and dispensed across the world. This transformation in practices not only streamlines the workflow for physicians and pharmacists, but it also impacts the lives of patients positively.

Application of technology in the field of pharmacy is improving medication safety, reducing the chances of potential medication errors, increasing the patient’s access to medical information and boosting the overall health outcomes.

As the field of pharmacy continues to keep pace with the medical advancements and technological developments that the healthcare industry today is steamrolling with, here is a deep dive into how technology is improving the patient outcomes in pharmacy.

1. ePrescribing

The days of scribbled notes on the doctor’s prescription pad are long gone. Prescribing errors are a common medication error which can result in serious complications. Electronic prescriptions (ePrescriptions) allow the prescriptions to be sent electronically directly to the pharmacy by the physician.

The total rate of ePrescribing up from 66 percent of all prescriptions in 2017 to 80 percent of all drug prescriptions in 2019 as per Surescripts’ national progress report. Here are the major benefits that ePrescribing offers.

Decreased Medication Errors

Since the prescriptions are in digital form, the legibility challenges associated with handwritten prescriptions are no longer a concern. This reduces the chances of erroneous medicine being given to the patients.

Improved workflow

The medications prescribed are instantaneously transmitted to the pharmacy by means of a specialized software. Once the pharmacy receives the request for a prescription, it can start filling out the medication instantly, without any time lag associated. ePrescribing therefore helps make the workflow more efficient for both pharmacists and physicians. It is equally beneficial for the patients who have the added convenience of being able to skip the long wait times often associated with getting medication.

Drug price transparency

ePrescribing allows for increased access to the drug information which includes data about the cost and coverage. Access to this data also allows the patients to have prescription cost conversations with the providers resulting in drug price transparency.

Increased drug safety

Electronic prescribing of controlled substances adds an extra layer of protection against instances of potential abuse. EPCS allows providers to integrate information of controlled substances such as opioid prescription into EHRs. This helps in boosting patient safety and helps prevent diversion and fraud associated with drug prescriptions.

2. Automated dispensing

Automated dispensing cabinets are already widely in use in the hospital care settings. These decentralized medication distribution systems enable effective storage, dispensing and tracking of drugs in the patient care units though computer-controlled mechanisms.

Efficient resource utilization

Replacing the traditional medicine carts or manual stocking of drugs with the automated dispensing cabinets saves on the human capital requirement on the hospital floor and allows for better resource utilization.

Instantaneous medication availability

Conventional medication dispensing systems resulted in a time lag between the time the medications were prescribed and the moment they were ready to be dispensed and available to the nurses for administration.

Automated dispensing cabinets made it possible to overcome this shortfall and ensure instantaneous medication delivery. By overcoming supply delays and stock shortages, automated dispensing systems ensure better access to care and result in improved patient outcomes.

3. Medication adherence applications

Mobile apps have become ubiquitous in our lives so it’s no surprise that they are making their presence felt in the field of medication delivery as well.

Medication adherence apps range from simple mobile applications that send out notifications to the patients to remind them of their drug dosage schedule to complex apps that run in conjugation with smart devices as a part of remote patient monitoring strategy.

The concept behind medication adherence apps remains the same- reminding patients about their upcoming medicine uptake and ensuring that they stick to the prescribed medication regimen.

From using a text-based approach to alert patients that their repeat prescriptions are ready to dispatch by the pharmacy to sending out push notifications according to the dosage schedule to ensure that the patients don’t miss out on taking their meds, there are a range of apps available to ensure medication adherence.

A number of healthcare providers these days are choosing to custom develop a patient engagement application that gives patients a comprehensive overview of their health status, helps answer any queries that they might have and also sends out custom alerts according to the prescribed regimen to ensure greater compliance.

A number of technologies are now available to support the different approaches to medication adherence. Researchers have come up with a smart packaging that has sensors and microchips on the blister pack present. Every time the patient pops a pill out of the packaging, the physicians can monitor the drug intake.

The action also prompts a questionnaire on the app that asks patients to report any side effects they might be experiencing as a result of drug intake.

While effective, this approach doesn’t ensure that the tablets once removed from the pack are actually ingested. In order to take things a step further, researchers have now come up with the smart pill, a more invasive medication adherence technology.

The sensor embedded pill when ingested by the patient transmits data about the dosage taken and also sends out the data about the patient’s vitals through the connected mobile app. While the technology is still in a nascent stage, we might be able to see its clinical application soon enough.

4. Pharmacy management systems

The pharmacy management systems harness data to improve the patient health. These systems employ clinical decision support, which alerts prescribers to potential dosing errors, drug allergies and drug interactions.

Pharmacies have access to a large amount of patient data. The current pharmacy management systems store information about each patient’s prescriptions and medication pick-up habits. Integration of this data with the EHRs and practice management systems allows better management.

Data can be used to flag individuals with erratic prescription pickup habits which is a sign of non adherence. Physicians and pharmacists can connect with such patient’s on an individual level and counsel them to ensure better compliance and eventually better clinical outcomes.

AI and big data are also two technologies making their presence felt in the pharmacy industry. Big data is now used to develop artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms that can predict treatment outcomes and medication errors.

Based on past data and correlating it with patient characteristics such as age, gender, duration of disease, and severity of disease, risk models are developed to ensure better treatment outcomes and reduce medication errors.

Looking to incorporate tech innovations to improve patient outcomes for your practice? With 9+ years of specialized experience in healthcare software development, Arkenea is the development partner you need to turn your ideas into reality. Get in touch with our team of expert consultants today.

Vinati Kamani
 

Dr Vinati Kamani writes about emerging technology and its application across industries for Arkenea. She is an avid reader and self proclaimed bibliophile. When Vinati is not at her desk penning down articles or reading up on the recent trends, she can be found travelling to remote places and soaking up different cultural experiences.