The health system is fragmented — and that’s not how people or health professionals win.
New consumer trends, more box stores, decreasing profits, increasing chronic diseases. More and more, pharmacists tackle new challenges in an ever-changing landscape. And because they’re some of the most accessible health professionals on the planet, pharmacists are in a place where they can have monumental impact to improve health outcomes. One thing is for sure: Digital health is here to stay. And with COVID-19 as an accelerator of innovation, consumer demand for more consolidated, connected systems along the entire continuum of care is increasing, and innovations in digital health can’t come fast enough. Roger Simard, a member of the WHO’s roster of digital health experts and a member of Carebook Technologies Advisory Board, says that it’s about time that innovations in tech help pharmacists carve new roles for themselves — with less emphasis on pill dispensing and more focus on increased understanding of individual customers and patients. The more you know a customer/patient (with consolidated health information), the better you — and other health professionals on their journeys — can serve them. That’s true from a disease management standpoint (medication management, medication adherence) and from a preventative and proactive care standpoint.
Technology is the bridge
With more to do, and less time, increasing quality of care means gaining efficiencies wherever possible. “For pharmacists,” Simard notes, “there is rising frustration with the inability to spend time with the humans in front of them and to work in an environment that is primarily pill distribution. Let’s face it, robots can dispense pills with better accuracy than any human. Pharmacy used to be lucrative in terms of distribution, but this is not the future. Pills are the same no matter where you get them. This is the time for the industry to shift and acknowledge pharmacists as well trained in care.”
Digital solutions that can save time in gathering relevant information and contribute to more meaningful conversations around health are no longer “nice to haves.” To stay competitive, pharmacists must use innovative solutions to take over the mundane tasks so they can practice at the top of their profession. More and more, pharmacies are seen as a setting through which innovation can be implemented — helping to achieve better outcomes and also to increase revenue.
Tech can help elevate the role of pharmacists
In her first address to the National Association of Chain Drug Stores as chair, Colleen Lindholz [president of Kroger Health] said that looking to the future, there is a need to address the ongoing health and wellness needs of Americans so that pharmacies can help “people live healthier lives” after COVID-19. On the front lines of care, with meaningful and frequent opportunities to connect one on one with patients, pharmacists are valuable partners in the care ecosystem, providing vaccinations, follow-up care, personalized medication adherence programs, discussing health and wellness, recommending programs and so much more.
Beyond disease management and prevention, there is increasing recognition by health care stakeholders that there are more holistic factors that impact health — including environments, stressors, financial well-being, sense of purpose, community, etc. Pharmacists have experience with these holistic factors — and sometimes the barriers, too. For example, pharmacists are well versed in the obstacles that prevent medication adherence; they know that a wide range of obstacles like finances, belief systems, etc. can impact adherence and, therefore, health outcomes. Often, they have the foundational knowledge and relationships with customers and patients so that they may collaborate on ways to remove barriers.
Simard says that beyond their vast capabilities is the need for a permanently reformed compensation system — pharmacists need to be paid for their consultations. Remote connections are happening more and more, especially now that COVID-19 proved this as an effective model. “Phone and over-the-counter advice equals health care savings every working day. This is a fact. The system needs to catch up to what we know. Pharmacists can absolutely be the driving force of digital innovation. Let the robots dispense, gather data and do the admin work. Our pharmacists should be compensated and celebrated for their unique training and the ability to intersect with patients in meaningful ways, at critical times.”
There are many areas of opportunity for pharmacists to improve the health outcomes of their patients and increase revenue. Carebook has an industry-leading digital pharmacy solution that addresses the tough issues pharmacists face with an all-in-one solution. It addresses the patient’s whole health journey and provides increased touchpoints for pharmacists to intersect with the care continuum — and, most importantly, with the humans who stand in front of them.
Deanna Kent is marketing manager at Carebook Technologies.