How technology can assist with patient ‘activation’

How can robotic pharmacy kiosks, remote counselling, smart pills and sensors engage patients? asks Dr Angel Gonzalez

In my last article, I discussed how ‘fully engaged’ or ‘activated’ patients have better health outcomes at lower costs.

Pharmacists around the world supported by e-health tools are allowing more patients to actively participate in maintaining their health and promoting collaborative care with providers.

MedsOnCue from the USA allows the patient to scan a QR code and retrieve medication counseling via online videos on their computer or mobile device. It provides the FDA information on the prescription and the ASHP (American Society of Health-Systems Pharmacist) patient education guidelines in English and Spanish.

Some community pharmacies have begun to implement ‘Pharmacy Kiosks’—giving patients video information while their prescription is being filled and providing a visual aid and reminder of the essential information discussed with the pharmacist.

Another kiosk example is the research project led by the University of Aberdeen, the ‘Robotic Pharmacy Kiosk’, intended for remote Scottish rural areas where it is not financially viable to have a pharmacy.

In this case, the patients attend the kiosk location and speak remotely to a pharmacist via a webcam, they collect dispensed medicines, deposit prescriptions (which can be filled and collected later), and gain access to other standard pharmacy services such as the Minor Ailment Service (MAS).

The MAS allows those who are entitled to receive community pharmacy advice and in some cases receive dispensed prescriptions that would otherwise require a visit to a GP practice.

There has also been advances in numerous technologies designed to support approaches to adherence monitoring. MinuteClinic, a division of the pharmacy chain CVS in the US, is an example of a patient portal which fosters medication adherence.

Customers can access their medical records and enable information sharing with MinuteClinic, who then answer patient’s questions, resulting in a speedy resolution of queries, while providing real-time education to enhance understanding of their medications and disease states.

One of the most interesting proposals in the adherence monitoring field is the smart pill developed by Proteus Discover and offered by Lloydspharmacy in the UK. The Lifenote system consists of a sensor pill ingested by the patient, which transmits data to a mobile telephone or tablet device, via a receiver patch on the patient’s skin—doses taken, heart rate, body posture etc.

In the first Stanford’s Health Hackathon, a product called ‘Pharmassist’ was developed. It consists of a sensor that sticks to a pill bottle which then syncs with an app on a smartphone.

By placing the bottle on the phone, the app is able to provide instructions and record adherence. It can display further information such as tracking adherence, refill reminders (with direct contact to the pharmacy), and the ability to contact the pharmacist for queries.

This type of device can significantly assist those with low health literacy, visual impairments and the aged amongst others.

As healthcare continues to evolve, having tech-based strategies which engage patients and increase their health literacy is becoming more and more relevant.

Australian pharmacists can take an active role in this area by utilising technological innovations such as apps, reminder alerts and secure patient portals… all of which assist patients, not just in the management of their medications but by increasing their health literacy and also their level of engagement and ‘activation’. 

Dr. Angel Gonzalez is a Senior Associate with XPotential™ and Director of SymptoMapp. A qualified medical practitioner and anaesthetist in his home country, he is the owner of his own medical consulting business in Latin America. Angel’s deep medical knowledge, commitment to improving consumer health literacy and creativity provides unique insight into opportunities to improve healthcare in Australia.

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