Here’s how pharmacy mobile applications are poised to shape the digital health care revolution.
Digital health solutions — in the form of wearable devices, mobile apps and electronic health records (EHRs) — have given us more control of our health than ever before. These solutions have put a wealth of information at our fingertips, literally, and have made it much easier and faster to get the care we need.
These tools are a boon for physicians as well, who no longer have to rely on one-off, 15-minute annual checkups or appointments when something is wrong. Doctors now have a fuller picture of a patient’s health conditions thanks to digital solutions.
Patients with chronic conditions such as diabetes or asthma or those who have to take medication daily are able to monitor their health much more easily. Pharmacy apps, which provide important medication information, reminders, the ability to refill prescriptions virtually and communicate with professionals in real time are becoming a major part of this digital health transformation.
“These apps are the best way to remember to take your medications on time,” said Timothy Aungst, an assistant professor of pharmacy practice at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. “If people don’t take their medications, they’re at risk for negative secondary outcomes, like a heart attack. That reminder is huge.”
Indeed, mobile reminders make a difference. In a 2016 study involving more than 2,700 participants, text message reminders for taking medication increased adherence by 18 percent.
In a 2016 study involving more than 2,700 participants, text message reminders for taking medication increased adherence by 18 percent.
And now these reminders are available on wearable devices such as the Apple Watch through its HealthKit in addition to our mobile phones.
In another study, 55 percent of pharmacists said mobile apps were useful in facilitating patient consultations and 80 percent said they support health care education. Additionally, the majority of respondents, 78 percent, confirmed that they were confident using mobile apps.
“In general pharmacists see the potential for this technology and see it as an asset when trying to counsel patients,” said Michael J. Davies, an author of the study who is a professor at the School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences at John Moores University in Liverpool, England.
How it all works together
Despite these benefits, pharmacy apps are limited because they aren’t yet fully integrated with EHRs and data from wearable devices, such as heart rate and sleep cycles.
“It’s a fantastic move in the right direction from back in the day from when people didn’t know what drugs they were taking, and making it traceable is going to help medical professional everywhere,” said Donna Spruijt-Metz, director of University of Southern California’s mHealth Collaboratory. “But right now it’s siloed.”
As of now, doctors who are trying to leverage new technologies have to examine patient data separately.
But Aungst is confident that will change down the road, especially as companies such as Apple feed multiple data streams into one platform with its Apple Watch.
“It’s going to give us the ability to see all aspects of how the patient is doing and decide whether we need to see them in person or simply message them to keep up the good work,” he said.