Four Ways Pharmacists Need to Embrace Digital Health or Get Left Behind


Advances in technology are rapidly transforming the healthcare landscape. The changes are coming so quickly that medical practitioners often struggle to keep pace, while at the same time staying ahead of advances in medicine.

The impact on pharmacy will be significant as there is a variety of new digital drug treatments already on the market. The first digital medicine – a pill equipped with a sensor — received government approval in 2017. Inhalers with sensors are now on the market as well, tracking the use of the device in real-time. Insulin pens that do the same are expected on the market soon also.

The technology has other applications as well. Digital therapeutics is the label given to software that helps patients manage their health electronically.

But some in pharmacy argue that the profession is not doing enough to keep pace with the digital revolution in medicine. All of these advances have received little attention from pharmacists, leaving them unprepared to use them. It is all the more important because these changes have a big impact on the clinical side of medicine, an area pharmacists are eager to become more involved in.

Here are 4 ways that the pharmacy industry should adapt or get left behind in the dust.

  1. Recognition by professional organizations
    Pharmacy groups and associations will need to address the digital health issue for the profession – what it means, its impact, how to approach it.
  1. Education
    Pharmacy education will need to include instruction in digital healthcare, including such areas as data analytics, behavioral science, digital biomarkers, and the Internet of Things. For working pharmacists, certificate programs will need to be created to bring them up to speed, as well as providing continuing education credits in digital healthcare technology.
  1. Incorporating digital healthcare into pharmacy practice
    The question is how digital will be incorporated into the work of a pharmacy. Pharmacies are not equipped to handle data from digital medications designed to track their use in real-time to help patients with their care and adherence. This also raises the issue of whether pharmacists should be tasked with monitoring such data.
  1. Pay
    Another related issue is reimbursing pharmacists for such work. If a pharmacist, for example, does an assessment on a patient, and on that basis prescribes an app to help a patient monitor his or her medication adherence, and makes adjustments to the medication based on the data, the pharmacist should be paid for such care. As yet, however, there are no frameworks established for this type of treatment. Some pharmacists argue that the pharmacy profession should take the lead in establishing such a framework.

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