Patient-centred technologies are likely to emerge as the next big trend for pharmacy in 2017, say Martin Hao and Quintus Liu of personal health technology firm Healthera.

Many people already measure food intake or track activity on a daily basis with apps and gadgets but, to-date, there hasn’t been the same conscientious attitude towards medicines. This is expected to change going forward as pharmacies turn into digital ‘personal healthcare hubs’ and empower patients to make informed decisions about their medicines.

When pharmacists are asked what makes for better patient-centred care, answers vary greatly. At one end of the spectrum, the vast majority say “more staff”. This isn’t because there is an innate reluctance towards technology solutions, or a lack of awareness – it is because existing solutions have not really solved the problems.

Many pharmacies have tried adopting sporadic technology solutions to cover certain aspects of patient care, such as online platforms to log incoming service appointments, or texting services to remind patients of medication schedules and repeats ready for collection.

However, the hassle involved in co-ordinating these platforms and tools often leave pharmacists fatigued without seeing clear benefits.

At the other end of the spectrum, some pharmacies experience the benefits of highly integrated automation technologies. These robots are capable of high volume dispensing, freeing up pharmacist time to devote to patient-centred care. However, this approach comes at the expense of space, training, maintenance work and hundreds of thousands of pounds, putting it out of the reach for the vast majority of community pharmacies.

Bridging the gap

It is fairly easy to spot a gap in pharmacy technologies here: a void of scalable, affordable technology solutions that are applicable to all pharmacy settings, yet at the same time well-integrated with current pharmacy systems to facilitate an offering of patient-centred care practices.

So how will this technology gap in pharmacies be filled? First of all, pharmacy-integrated technologies will assist pharmacists and their workflow, as opposed to bringing in extra technicalities and confusion. Secondly, they will predicate on empowering patients with information while bringing pharmacies tangible benefits. Last but not least, patient-centred care solutions will enable patients to take ownership of their conditions once appropriate assistance is given by healthcare professionals.

Medicine diary

The Healthera app is a smart medicine diary for patients that analyses their medicine-taking pattern, records their concerns and helps them gain their pharmacist’s or doctor’s attention when misuse or irregular medicine-taking occurs.

The Healthera system interprets the medicine’s name and instruction found on prescription dispensing labels into a medicine schedule, then turns it into a QR code that is printed on the label. Patients can then use the app to scan the label, adding the medicine schedule to their phone’s calendar. Further information on the app is available at healthera.co.uk.

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