Smartphones and other digital technologies have a role to play in making drug therapies and other health care services more effective, chain drug retailers say.


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Inside This Issue - News

Retail Rx reaches new frontier in health care technology

January 17th, 2011

LAS VEGAS – Smartphones and other digital technologies have a role to play in making drug therapies and other health care services more effective, chain drug retailers say.

Walgreen Co. has developed mobile applications for iPhone, Android and Blackberry devices, the company’s chief medical officer, Dr. Cheryl Pegus, pointed out at the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

The applications deliver text alerts to more than 1 million subscribers and have a feature that allows patients to order prescription drug refills by simply scanning the barcode on their medication bottle.

Patients can also use their smartphones to access the walgreens.com web site on the go to make purchases, access health risk assessments and get information related to their prescription medications.

“Access to the right care, at the right time, is enabled for our consumers and patients by integrating mobile technology into the services we offer patients to help them stay well,” Pegus said.

Pegus, who moderated a panel discussion at the CES Digital Health Summit, also described the way that technology is used to simplify and improve the experience of patients visiting the 350 Take Care health clinics located in Walgreens drug stores.

Patients sign in at electronic kiosks, which allow them to avoid filling out paperwork by hand. The data they input at the kiosk generates an electronic medical record, and Walgreens pharmacists and Take Care health clinic professionals use an e-communication program to coordinate care and share information with a patient’s primary care provider.

Walgreens is also using digital technology to improve the management of chronic conditions. E-prescribing allows prescriptions to be routed directly to a patient’s pharmacy, which Pegus said can improve patient safety and convenience by allowing for a real-time cross-check for any drug interactions. A Walgreens tool called RxAdvisor facilitates regular pharmacist consultations (online or in-person) with patients about their medication regimens, she said, and another offering called MedMonitor Complete provides prescription and care management with support via telephone calls and face-to-face meetings.

“Leveraging our unmatched national footprint and 70,000 affiliated health care providers to provide access to care and help address the challenge of chronic care management are two key areas of strategic focus for Walgreens,” Pegus said. “By using technology to improve the patient experience and coordination of care, we can continue to improve measurable outcomes, adherence and quality while also providing cost-effective care.”

A recent study by CVS Caremark Corp., meanwhile, suggests that simple electronic reminders can be an effective and low-cost way to improve medication adherence.

The study, which reviewed more than four decades of medical journal articles about the impact of health information technology (HIT) and electronic communications on medication adherence, found that more research is needed to explore how HIT can be leveraged to more thoughtfully engage with patients or motivate them to take medications as prescribed.

The study was published last month in the American Journal of Managed Care. It is the result of a three-year research partnership between Harvard University, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and CVS, which aimed to better understand patient behavior, particularly regarding medication adherence.

The findings “highlight the disappointing state of evidence on a topic of substantial health importance,” the researchers said.

They noted that as the United States “invests substantially in the broad implementation of HIT, innovative adherence interventions built on the capabilities of HIT are essential and must be rigorously tested to identify applicable best practices.”

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