Let’s talk about technology in healthcare. A well-known fact is that technology has exceeded expectations for the human race over the last decade. But how technology has helped improve the healthcare landscape, has been a blessing to the world. A lesser-known fact is that pharmacies have been sort of left out of this umbrella, until recently. When we bring technology to the mix of a pharmacy, things change.
According to the most recent tech trends, implementing technology in a pharmacy to improve three major factors: affordability, convenience and education. These three factors are key to improve patient adherence. The pharmacist is the pillar of the healthcare system since they are easily available and the most accessible, at any drugstore in the country. While a provider can help diagnose the health issue, write a prescription, and hand it over to the pharmacy – it’s up to the pharmacy to ensure that the prescription is filled and the patient is taking the prescribed medication every day. To learn about some of the technologies recently implemented in some of the fastest growing digital pharmacies across the US, continue reading.
Keeping everybody informed and up to date with their health information is an important aspect of being in the healthcare landscape. By implementing technology and text messaging capabilities, pharmacies are able to keep the patient informed at every step of the process – such as when the pharmacy receives the prescription, when the co-pay is finalized, and when they can pay for the prescription via text. When the prescription is out for delivery, they can also send them the tracking number on driver information and delivery time.
Reporting tools have been proven to be the most useful for providers. Before technology was implemented with pharmacies, the physician had no visibility on what happens to the prescription after that prescription is sent to the pharmacy. Now with modern reporting structures, a physician can see exactly how many prescriptions were written, what the patient’s out of pocket cost is, and what time the medication was delivered to them. Simple statistics show that out of a hundred prescriptions written, only 33 prescriptions are actually being sold. As of today, 67% of prescriptions don’t even get filled for various reasons. Three major reasons being: the patient can’t afford it, the patient doesn’t have the means of transportation to pick it up, or the patient is not educated enough to understand the importance of taking the medication.
The Rx dispensing kiosk has been approved by about 8-10 states and more states are looking into it currently. These kiosks allow providers to provide convenience to patients who can have access to their medication immediately after a doctor visit. These kiosks are the perfect fit for urgent cares or emergency rooms. Another type of kiosk is a basic digital kiosk that can be placed into a doctor’s office to help patients consult with a pharmacist right after their doctor visits to answer all their prescription-related questions, such as how much their prescription costs and if that prescription is covered through their insurance or not. They can pay for their prescriptions at the kiosk as well as get the pharmacist consultation, right away from their doctor’s office. Most importantly, they can schedule a delivery for the prescription so they don’t have to stop at the pharmacy, and can just go home or schedule it from work.
Streamline Provider’s Operational Workflow
By utilizing a digital pharmacy, provider offices can streamline their operational workflow by reducing phone calls from multiple pharmacies for medication change requests (MCR) when the prescription is not covered, prior authorization (PA) requests for different medications to help get it approved through PBMs, or when requesting refills for different patients from multiple pharmacies. It takes a lot of admin work off of the regular medical staff’s stressful duties. This platform allows the medical staff to focus their time to perform clinical work rather than tedious administrative work. The patient still has the choice to pick up their prescription from their preferred pharmacy, while improving the medical office’s workflow and minimizing admin-based tasks and long phone calls from multiple parties.
Chronic Care Management (CCM) and Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM)
By using technology and collaborative practice agreements, provider offices can now offer more services like chronic care management (CCM), remote patient monitoring (RPM), transitional care management (TCM), or annual wellness visits without adding more work onto their plates. Under collaborative practice agreements, a pharmacist can perform CCM, RPM, AWS, and TCM, while provider offices can bill for those services under medicare guidelines. Some pharmacies have built their own platform to keep track of CCM/RPM etc.
Adherence, HEDIS, and Importance of Star measures
Patient adherence to therapy or compliance with their medication is crucial in order to improve patient health. There are measures that CMS has implemented to make physician or provider practices motivated to keep patients adherent to therapy. As a provider they can write a prescription, but to make sure that patient is taking their medicine, they need data coming back to them and visibility. Digital Pharmacies have come up with not only refill reminders, but also a way to remind patients at the time to take their medicine through text messaging or a watch that vibrates when it’s time to take that medicine. These devices also provide all that data back to providers’ offices so they can discuss their adherence at the next visit.
Data, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning
Patient data has caused new advancements in the pharmaceutical world. Some of the digital pharmacies have started bringing not only prescription data, but also medical records as well as lifestyle or wellness data from Apple health to Fitbit. Now with a smart watch, they can bring data like blood pressure, cholesterol, oxygen, calories, active energy, how many steps they are taking etc. to a dashboard where patients can see actionable data. This allows patients to see important data points that they need to take action on. Then when a pharmacist or provider is consulting a patient they can not only talk about medication, but also discuss what lifestyle changes the patient needs to make in order to get our improved or better health.
Building a dashboard where the patient can see where they need to improve and when they are excelling, while giving them a snapshot of their health is important.
Patient Education and Consultation
A pharmacist has two main tasks: dispensing the medicine as it’s written by the provider and educating the patient about the medication such as side effects, when to take the medicine, how to take the medicine and what is important about taking that medicine every day. Some patients are not comfortable talking about the conditions at a pharmacy counter or they might be introverted talking about it in the public. Most digital pharmacies these days use a telehealth platform to bring on the pharmacist for a scheduled visit, while the patient is at the comfort and privacy of their home. It allows them to talk to the pharmacist and get their undivided attention at no cost, while getting the answer to all the questions, going over their current medications and reconciling to make sure there’s no duplication of therapy or drug drug interaction.
Last but not least, most digital pharmacies manage a good delivery network and provide free same day or next day delivery to patients so they don’t have to stop at the pharmacy or make a tedious visit there.
Below is a chart of current digital pharmacies in the industry and how the services they provide.