Get on board with technology

Pharmacists need to embrace the digital space or risk being left behind, says health IT expert

Technology is changing the way pharmacy is practised, said eRx Script Exchange Partnerships Manager Roger Boot at the Pharmacy Connect conference on Friday 9 September.

“We talk about pharmacists being the most accessible health professionals, but if we don’t take hold of technology someone else will,” warned Boot.

Cloud-based health records are one of the main new technologies pharmacists can utilise to provide a better service, he said.

“One of the reasons you would use this in your dispensary is because it allows you to adapt with several other aspects instantly.”

This includes being able to get a consolidated record, and being able to provide post-discharge medicines reconciliation.

“This tool is coming,” he said, adding that it should be a remunerated service.

“With the consent of the patient we can make those records available. It will really open up the space for pharmacists to do more.”

Telehealth is also transforming healthcare, said Boot, with a variety of companies offering 24-hour online and over-the-phone GP and nurse consultations and referring patients to pharmacies to dispense any scripts.

For example, Telstra has launched its telehealth venture ReadyCare, which offers 24/7 access to GP consults.

ReadyCare has partnered with pharmacies that can facilitate online consultations with a GP, using GuidLink’s GuildCare software as the platform for consults.

The GP can provide the patient with a script that can then be dispensed in the same location, offering a service for patients who have difficulty accessing local GP services, particularly those in rural and regional Australia.

In return, the GP receives a consultation fee while the pharmacist receives a facilitation fee.

“ReadyCare is a great example of innovation that aligns with our vision to delivery better health outcomes in pharmacy for Australians using innovative technology,” said Ross Gallagher, CEO of GuildLink.

According to Boot, Telstra is looking for pharmacies to participate in a trial.

This space is “something pharmacists need to be aware of,” he said.

He also provided some tips to prepare them for the changes ahead:

  1. Stay aware of tech changes.
  2. Embrace the cloud (FredNXT, MedView).
  3. Own your online identity (for example, create a website even if it just includes basic info).
  4. Consider health monitoring devices for your dispensary.
  5. Consider telemedicine services (Telstra Health, GP2U, MyOnlineClinic).

Pharmacy Guild executive director David Quilty has said pharmacy will be shaped by technology and data in all aspects of the health system.

“Health decisions from the macro to the individual patient care level will be increasingly driven by the smart use of data and the technologies that maximise its value,” Quilty wrote recently.

“To continue to be successful, pharmacies must embrace and become experts in e-health, telehealth, wearables and remote monitoring devices, and business and health analytics.”

By 2025, community pharmacy needs to be less reliant on dispensing but retain a strong retailing presence, Quilty added.

“It will be intensely patient-focused and integrated with the wider health system; it will have developed new revenue streams from a diversified source of funders and likely specialise in particular areas of medicine or patient care; and it will be data-driven whilst embracing the latest advances in technology,” he said.

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