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Health Care IT

Digital Pharmacy: Promises and Concerns

Today, digital medicine is providing pharmacy patients with added convenience and information through services such as app-based prescription refill ordering, appointment reminders and access to lab results, just to name a few. The increasing amount of information available to patients to find the highest-quality, lowest-cost — and yes, highest-touch — providers is critical in the face of today’s high deductible health plans, impersonal care and out-of-pocket costs.

The apps many local independent pharmacies offer their patients can inform about common side effects patients may be experiencing, helping to identify and address issues early, so that patients don’t just stop taking their medication. These apps also can provide reminders for health monitoring — for instance, making sure diabetes patients are checking and caring for their feet to prevent difficult-to-heal wounds or even amputation.

Take heed

One cautionary note: Despite all the benefits that digital medicine offers patients and health care providers, it can also be used to steer patients to certain providers in which your prescription drug insurance provider may have a financial interest. Often, that pharmacy may not be local and may not provide the best care at the lowest cost. Community pharmacies continue to see example after example of prescription claims where pharmacy benefit managers steer patients to mail-order pharmacies or cost the patient more.

A bright future

The connections between patients’ multiple health care providers and care managers afforded by advances in digital medicine, as well as the sharing of these collaborative care plans with patients and their caregivers, offers great promise for a healthier future at reduced costs. The role of the local community pharmacist in this digitally-enabled system will continue to grow as the medication and medication-use expert on patients’ health care teams. We think pharmacy patients will be the better for it.

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