Aysha Ahmed, PharmD, is Chief Medical Director, President & Co-Founder of Vasa Health IV™.
From the outside, most people assume that a pharmacist’s sole job is to properly dispense the medication prescribed by a doctor. While this is certainly a critical part of what goes on in a pharmacy, it’s by no means the only role pharmacists play in the healthcare ecosystem.
In fact, pharmacists play a vital role in ensuring that all patients have access to their medicines and that they adhere to proper guidelines for use. Technological innovations in healthcare and the pharmaceutical sector not only increase the role of pharmacists in these areas, but also enable us to support patients and healthcare providers in new ways that help promote health and save lives.
Technology improves adherence, resulting in saved lives
Medication adherence is often measured in two ways: by the number of people who collect their medicines from the pharmacy and the number of people who take their medicines as prescribed. In 2017, the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science found itunsurprisingly, those costs were the biggest determinant of picking up or leaving their medications at the pharmacy.
Out-of-pocket costs for all types of drugs skyrocketed from $1 billion to $77 billion in 2020, $24.5 billion of which will go to generic prescription drugs and come out of the pockets of the uninsured. In addition, of the roughly 6.3 billion prescriptions IQVIA says are written to patients in the US each year, about 3.3% is never picked up. That’s 207.9 million prescriptions that aren’t picked up or taken. And even among those who are arrested, one third of patients will likely stop taking it without talking to their doctor. Combined, all types of non-compliance contribute to at least 125,000 dead that could possibly have been prevented and $500 billion in otherwise avoidable health care costs.
As insurmountable as this problem may seem, technology has the power to help. Medication dispensers for the home offer pharmacists the ability to keep track of whether patients are actually taking their prescribed medication. In addition, the tracking is done in real time. While they are still in their infancy and have only become widely available in the past two to three years, some of these dispensers also have built-in medication reminders.
Digital systems are being developed that empower, encourage and empower patients so that people can become more involved in their own healthcare, from improved access to medical records and test results to better tracking and management of medicines. The types of “digital” platforms are gaining ground in both pharmacies and medical facilities, as they not only increase access, but also help change patients’ behavior when it comes to actively engaging in their own care.
Following the growing trend of telehealth, even home-based infusion therapies are becoming an option. I see technology and the growing networks it creates have the potential to help pharmacists, insurance companies and medical providers work together to find affordable medication alternatives to reduce costs, strengthen collaboration and improve patient adherence to medication and other increase instructions.
How technology improves access to medicines and care for patients
While long-term cost will likely remain the primary determinant of adherence, other access challenges are not far behind. The same IQVIA report from earlier shows that: more than a quarter of those prescriptions left behind are abandoned due to access reasons related to denial of prior authorization, issues between generic and branded drugs, clerical errors, missing medical documentation and other administrative concerns that create barriers for patients and consume pharmacists’ time – time that should be spent to helping patients in other ways .
One of the most critical, yet sorely overlooked, roles of pharmacists in their communities is their role as patient advisors and advocates, including their responsibility to review medical therapies. Now most pharmacies are reduced to asking customers on a digital screen if they have questions for the pharmacist, and most patients don’t ask. In addition, about a quarter of patients may not be able to ask questions at all, as an estimated 12% of patients receive their recipes via postal delivery and an estimated 13% receive home delivery from a pharmacy.
Platforms that collect and connect medical and pharmaceutical information for patients have the potential to reduce administrative and clerical errors, reduce wait times, alleviate pre-authorization issues, and ultimately give pharmacists the critical time it takes to work directly with and on behalf of patients. to work.
How Pharmacists and Healthcare Providers Can Improve Digiceutical Practices
I believe that improving patients’ lives starts with improving their access to and compliance with prescription drugs. Today, the easiest and most effective way to achieve results is by applying and leveraging new and available technologies that improve the continuum of care and collaboration between patients, healthcare providers, pharmacists and insurance companies.
In addition, pharmacists will be given the time and resources to educate and advise patients, and enable patients to manage their medicines effectively, directly from home or from their phone. This will inevitably create pathways that improve positive health outcomes now and for decades to come.