Inmar Inc. | April 1, 2013

Patient needs are changing every day and to meet those needs, pharmacies must at look how they currently connect with their patients. A December 2010 study conducted by Harvard University, Brigham and Women's Hospital and CVS Caremark concluded, "Pharmacists at a retail store are the most influential health care 'voice' in getting patients to take medicine as prescribed." The future of pharmacy is full-on patient engagement with the pharmacist and the key to accomplishing this is the use of technology.

Technology can be employed to remove all non-essential functions from the pharmacy. Automated prescription filling can be done at central-filling facilities and then delivered to the pharmacy completed and ready for distribution to patients by next day, and in some cases same day. Also, many of the functions historically done in the retail pharmacy can be completed through central processing, with greater efficiency and quality outside of the retail store. Items such as — data entry, contact with prescribers, third-party claim reject resolution, drug utilization reviews are all labor intensive tasks that can be removed from the pharmacy.

So how should pharmacists engage patients? The first step is determining the correct mode of communication and the timing of that communication. With technology — tablets, smart phones and home computers — patients can engage with pharmacy when they want, where they want and in the manner they want. With face-to face meetings as well as technology interactions like phone, chat, text and skype also available, the pharmacist can engage patients to gain the most from drug therapies and to encourage adherence.

With technology, patients have access to clinical self-reporting that can be entered into a web or mobile app at their convenience. The pharmacist would then have the most up-to-date information when the patient enters the pharmacy and would have the capability to meet individualized patient needs and provide consistency in care. Pharmacist/patient interaction can be more valuable as prescription and condition information can help meet challenges for the patient with disease state, side effects, adherence and even cost control.

The biggest challenge in moving to this system of patient engagement is protecting data. Remaining HIPAA compliant while using central fill and centralized processing will require oversight and changes from state boards and within the industry as a whole. More progressive states have already moved towards this model to reduce re-admissions, control medical costs and increase overall patient care.