Technology Corner: November/December 2015

Getting Feedback Can Be Engaging


We have been writing for years about ways to bring about participatory healthcare using patient engagement strategies. Well, one of the “push” technologies we subscribe to is called iHealthBeat. This is a short newsletter that is delivered daily in an e-mail and is a free service of the California HealthCare Foundation. We recommend that you consider subscribing to this publication if you have any interest in how technological developments are progressing in fields both internal and external to pharmacy practice.

One of the articles in a recent issue described a study conducted by Geisinger Health System. In the study, patients were allowed to review their medication lists for accuracy and completeness before seeing their doctor. Over 400 patients were found to be “eager” to provide feedback concerning their medications. It was interesting that 89% of those studied found changes that they felt needed to be made. The top three changes included:

  1. Feeling the need for a new type of drug.

  2. Revealing a potential overdose.

  3. Updating the actual dosing frequency of their drugs.

The pharmacists involved in the study say that they supported the patient’s information and feedback in over 80% of the cases and subsequently changed the medication lists.

Are you surprised by the results of this study? Actually, we were not. For years we have used a graphic that shows patients in the middle of a circle of healthcare providers, illustrating patient-centric healthcare. In patient-centered care, patients are actively engaged in making decisions concerning their health and the self-management behaviors needed to maintain their health. Although the patient in our illustration was in the center of the circle of providers and other professional stakeholders, we think we all realize that patients, for the most part, don’t feel they are at the center of their healthcare system. And although in most states they legally own the information in their medical record, we believe that patients don’t feel like they own that information, either.

There are so many ways available now to connect with patients to allow them a level of participation in their own care and to engage them actively. The process of asking for patients’ feedback on their medication list can occur through the printing of a page containing the medication history profile for an individual patient or his or her HIPAA-authorized caregiver. If you want to stay “green,” a monitor can be positioned to privately mirror this profile in a way that allows the feedback to take place. We can even imagine that patients may want their annual flu shot or a refill on a seasonal medication included during this review.

Patients should not be shocked by being offered this opportunity. Even our automobiles are sending an email letting us know the status of their oil change needs, their tire pressure, and whether regularly scheduled maintenance is needed due to the mileage we have placed on our vehicles. We would ask you to consider giving this strategy a try and gauging how your patients respond to it. If you are a pharmacy management system vendor, you might tell your clients how to quickly produce a targeted report to facilitate the service.

Pharmacies that operate websites and mobile apps may be able to prompt patients to give this kind of feedback by direct messaging online. You could consider tweeting that you are interested in receiving this kind of feedback and provide a link to your email address requesting the service. Tweeting your other engagement ideas is a good use of Twitter. If Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, and Barack Obama can all have 40 million to 50 million followers, then we suspect that your pharmacy could draw a few thousand interested parties. If you have a Twitter account, have you considered asking patients what you could do to help them get more engaged in their own healthcare? Similarly, we believe the social network channel of Face-book will not only help many adult and elderly patients to become more engaged, but will also allow you to start plowing the ground for your younger patients to become more active.

Ideas to Consider

Make sure that you establish a pharmacy Facebook page so that you can keep the focus on your practice. Save your personal Facebook page for family and close friends when possible. Did you know that some universities are not even providing email accounts to their students because social networking communication channels are so prolific in these populations? We heard of one idea where a business started posting photographs on a “Wall of Fame” that showcased pictures of their customers holding shopping bags with the business’s logo in fun vacation locations. Having one of your patients holding up your logo with the Eiffel Tower in the background could be fun either on a real wall or one that is virtual.

You may have to pick where to begin increasing your patient engagement activities, but we encourage you to do some pilot testing to see how your efforts are received. If you don’t know how to use your pharmacy management system, we recommend that you call customer service and tell them what you’re trying to accomplish. Chances are they already have a built-in support that can be repurposed for your needs.

We used to work with a pharmacist from Alabama on marketing his practice. He described how his prescription department and front end work together for the good of the whole. He said sometimes his prescription department was the steak and his front store was the potatoes. Sometimes it was the reverse. In order to engage patients, those patients have to visit the pharmacy. Foursquare is a social networking channel that allows users of a mobile app to see what is happening in businesses close to their present location while driving or shopping in other businesses. Discounts, sales, and coupons can be distributed in real time to current and potential patrons. Patients of your prescription department can become patrons in your front store using this application.

YouTube can help your practice address the reasons that patients most frequently fail in adhering to their prescription medication regimens and lifestyle changes that promote good health outcomes. Patients fail because they don’t know what to do, they don’t know how to do it, or they are not motivated to make the changes necessary for self-care management. You should consider engaging your patients by telling them both what to do and how to appropriately take care of themselves. The same videos that patients use can be viewed by the nonprofessional caregivers who support them. Consider promoting all of the specialty practice focus areas in your pharmacy using YouTube. It’s free, and most of America learns best by visual means.

You may have to pick where to begin increasing your patient engagement activities, but we encourage you to do some pilot testing to see how your efforts are received. If you don’t know how to use your pharmacy management system, we recommend that you call customer service and tell them what you’re trying to accomplish. Chances are they already have a built-in support that can be repurposed for your needs. In other cases, you will find that new features have been added about which you could be unaware. For example, one of our local pharmacists didn’t know that he could text patients using his pharmacy management system. Don’t be afraid to dream here, and don’t be afraid to contact us with your own ideas, comments, and questions regarding this topic. We can continue this conversation if you email us. CT

G. Felkey, M.S.
is professor emeritus, and
I. Fox, Pharm.D., Ph.D.
is an associate professor, in the Department of Health
Outcomes Research and Policy, Harrison School of Pharmacy,
Auburn University. They can be reached at
and, or write on their blog at