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I find it interesting to see so many articles in the press about “smart medicine,” “digital medicine,” and the like.

Apps are being put into play that connect patient data with physicians to keep an eye on such things as blood pressure, blood glucose, and body temperature. We also read a lot about precision medicine and how it’s changing outcomes.

All this is technology based. I subscribe to MIT Technology Review, and the July/August issue had several articles that were healthcare related. The June 26 issue of The Wall Street Journal featured a special report on “How Apps Can Help Manage Chronic Diseases,” by Laura Landro. The July 8-9 Saturday/Sunday issue of the Journal featured an article authored by Eric Topol, M.D., a cardiologist and professor of molecular medicine at the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, entitled, “The Smart-Medicine Solution to the Health-Care Crisis.”

We also keep hearing about artificial intelligence applications in medicine. The IBM Watson is a good example of this. But for artificial intelligence to work, it depends on vast amounts of data being fed into a computer and sophisticated algorithms applied to extract the correct information to the questions posed.

Then there is genomics, where pharmacists can be involved by suggesting an alternative drug or a different dose in order to make the drug work as intended and avoid adverse drug events. The American Society for Automation in Pharmacy had an excellent speaker on the subject at its June conference, Cal Knowlton, founder of Tabula Rasa HealthCare, based in New Jersey. I have known Cal for many years. He is a true visionary when it comes to ways to advance the practice of pharmacy.

The top agenda item in pharmacy these days is medication adherence, and there are technology-based solutions to address this. However, pharmacy has to be careful that it is not preempted by monitoring devices that can transmit adherence information directly to the physician. There is technology that uses a tiny sensor that is ingested with the medication that can alert a physician when a patient misses a dose. According to the above-mentioned Journal article on apps, this is being tested at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. The company that developed this technology is Proteus Digital Health in Redwood City, Calif.

The problem of prescriptions that are transmitted electronically but never picked up is something a pharmacist knows. I have read that 22% of new prescriptions for diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol are never filled. Pharmacists should be proactive, letting physicians know when prescriptions are not picked up, as well as telling them about any program the pharmacy has implemented to address the nonadherence problem.

There is a lot at stake for pharmacy as new applications are developed that can diminish pharmacy’s importance in patient care. My advice is to be aware of apps that can be deployed to keep pharmacy on a sound footing as we move forward. CT

Bill Lockwood

Chairman | Publisher

Bill can be reached at