Breaking the Ice of Pharmacists New Challenges with Health 2.0

January 7, 2010


Olivier LAURENT - CEO at Coligane group

The birth of the new era of internet has brought with it a wide range of opportunities for the betterment of healthcare. It has brought patients, healthcare providers and pharmacists within close ranges where interaction between these groups is much easier. Nevertheless, patient non-adherence to the medication regimes still remains a matter of concern among healthcare providers, pharmacists and the patients themselves. Health 2.0 can help the pharmacists overcome many such challenges with proper utilization of the upcoming technologies. Let’s discuss a few common challenges being faced by the pharmacists and how Health 2.0 concept can break the ice for them.

Patient Adherence and Compliance

Compliance has been generally defined as the extent to which a patient’s behavior coincides with medical or health advice. Studies have reported that 30 to 60% of the patients report no or poor adherence to medical recommendation.1 Now this can be a worrisome situation as it can have a multitude of effects. Among these, the important ones include deterioration of patient health and growing burden on the financial costs of healthcare. Some of the factors that have been reported to affect the patient adherence and compliance include: patient’s characteristics, disease particularities, drug treatment modalities or physician’s attitudes. 1

Studies have highlighted the role of pharmacists in improving the adherence and compliance to different therapies. Involvement of the pharmacist in the treatment of different chronic conditions has been noted to improve the outcomes of the treatment and also improve the quality of life while minimizing the complications associated with the disorders. 2

With the introduction of the newer concepts of internet technology there has been a paradigm shift in the field of healthcare. The healthcare system has become patient centric and the patients are expecting faster outcomes or better facilities and are becoming quite impatient. This has generated newer challenges towards medical compliance.3 Thereby with the changing scenarios pharmacists in today’s world need to upgrade to combat the new challenges.

The concept of Health 2.0 can be effectively used to overcome the newer challenges. Pharmacists can set up web portals to follow up the patient once they obtain medications from the pharmacy. They can set up chat rooms to enable patients discuss their concerns about the medications, their dosages, mode of administration and the frequency of administration. Pharmacists can also keep a track of medication usage and remind the patients when the medications are about to expire or when the patient is about to run out of the medication. Further, patient satisfaction regarding a particular group of drug can be recorded and shared with other patients who have been advised the same medications.

Patient Counseling

The internet has reached every corner of the world today and healthcare has become accessible to many populations which were devoid of such facilities. Concepts such as Health 2.0 have helped many patients to know about their disorders and obtain timely treatment. Nevertheless, studies have reported that the patients are still not completely satisfied. Many patients still lack knowledge about their disease and the treatment options. Several others still don’t know what a particular medication does and why is it important.

These problems have been attributed to factors such as: a lack of interactive communication technologies presently available on the Internet; a lack of credible and professional production of health care information available on the Internet, and a lack of interaction between healthcare professionals and patients.4

Patients in many instances are worried about their disease and the need for taking medications on a regular basis. This is especially true in case of patients suffering from chronic disorders such as asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, heart disorders and many more. The role of a pharmacist is quite essential in improving the quality of life in these patients. 2

With the help of technologies such as the Health 2.0 a pharmacist can offer a variety of services to the patients. The most important among these is the counseling of the patient about the disease process, the treatment options and the need for compliance and adherence to treatment. The pharmacist can use a number of concepts available today to counsel the patient about these factors. Some of the tools such as online videos, interactive games, online patient communities or forums, websites that provide authentic information about disorders and their treatments, blogs to discuss about newer medications or treatment options and many more.

Changing Roles of pharmacists

The changing time and changing needs of the patients and the healthcare providers have put a multitude of responsibilities over the pharmacist today. He can effectively handle these responsibilities with the introduction of concepts such as Health 2.0.

Online forums, chat rooms, communities or one-to-one sessions with the patients can help the pharmacist to:

  • Recognize the initial signs of a disease and recommend medical examination
  • Keep a check on drug-related issues thereby minimizing risks for the patients
  • Maximize the effect of the treatment by supporting drug compliance
  • Repeat the instructions for use of a drug so that the patient understands it well
  • Counsel and recommend a change in lifestyle in individuals with high risk of developing a disorder or complications
  • Detect and report drug safety issues to the pharmaceutical companies, healthcare providers or the regulatory bodies as appropriate
  • Become a bridge between the healthcare provider and the patient to improve treatment outcomes

Pharmacists can take help of tools such as symptom checkers, risk calculators, medication verification systems, drug safety reporting forms, feedback forms, and many more. Such online tools can be offered to patients, caregivers and healthcare professionals to deliver and obtain information mutually.

To conclude, although the introduction of newer concepts such as Health 2.0 has brought about newer challenges to the practicing pharmacist, it has also opened up many doors towards improving the patient care, compliance and healthcare. Arming up oneself with the newer technologies is the need of the hour for the pharmacists to excel in this patient centric world of healthcare.

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  1. Scheen AJ. Medication compliance. Rev Med Liege. 1999 Nov; 54(11):854-8.
  2. Onda M, Sakurai H, Hayase Y, Sakamaki H, Arakawa Y, Yasukawa F. Effects of patient-pharmacist communication in the treatment of asthma. Yakugaku Zasshi. 2009 Apr; 129(4):427-33.
  3. Bos L, Carroll D, Marsh A. “The impatient patient”. Stud Health Technol Inform. 2008; 137:1-13.
  4. Lupiáñez-Villanueva F, Mayer MA, Torrent J. Opportunities and challenges of Web 2.0 within the health care systems: an empirical exploration. Inform Health Soc Care. 2009 Sep; 34(3):117-26.

One Response to “Breaking the Ice of Pharmacists New Challenges with Health 2.0”

  1. thompillkey said

    Dear Oliver

    You are right in the meaning of Health 2.0 to medication adherence but not in the way you analyzed it. The role of pharmacists will be important through Health 2.0 but only three points you mention are important in that.
    We use Health2.0 on our Mobile Medication Manager.
    We want people to keep their quality of life or even improve their lifestyle by productsupport to selfmanagement. One of the main subjects is the role or better back-up role of pharamacists as well as healthcare professionals.
    It is obvious that at a certain point both of them are less part of daily life and that’s good. So this turming point of selfmanagement is the most difficult part of Medication compliance. Shifting forward this moment or offer help at these moments seemingly, is not in benefit of the regular user of medication.
    So we offer certainty of adherence and freedom of lifestyle with the security of maximal communication through Health2.0 wherever you are, whatever you do and however circumstances are.

    So yes Health 2.0 is important but please use it to make people more independed of healthcare and let them live the lifestyle they want and not that one of a patient @ home.

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