For many people, using technologies such as the Internet, smartphones, and text messaging have become as natural as breathing. Most American adults send and receive information on their cell phone or via e-mail, which makes such technology an interesting new avenue for communicating with patients, conveying health information, and buying medications online.
In January 2014, 87% of American adults used the Internet, according to the Pew Research Center, and about 70% of adults had a high-speed connection at home. The center also reported that as of January 2014, 90% of American adults had a cell phone, and of these, 58% had a smartphone.
The wide use of the Internet and cell phones has created several opportunities for pharmacists. For example, to improve adherence, pharmacists can send a text or e-mail reminders to encourage patients to fill, refill, or take a medication.
“Consumers tell us that e-mails from pharmacies and cell phone apps that remind you to take your medications are some of the more helpful tools for managing medications,” said Rebecca Burkholder, JD, Vice President of Health Policy, at the National Consumers League (NCL). “Some cell phone apps let patients share their medication information and habits with their pharmacist or other health care professionals. This can help patients communicate more effectively with their pharmacists about their medications.”
In 2011, NCL launched the Script Your Future campaign, designed to raise awareness about medication adherence. The campaign provides tools to support patient efforts to adhere to their prescribed medicine. In addition to the free text service, patients can visit www.scriptyourfuture.org for tips on how to select a good medication management app. The website also has sample questions to ask a pharmacist or physician, medication lists and charts to keep track of medicines, and fact sheets on common chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma, and high blood pressure.
“As a practicing community pharmacist, I regularly encourage consumers to develop a relationship with a pharmacist they trust,” said Steve Leuck, PharmD, Owner and President of AudibleRx. “After reviewing medication information from any source, consumers need a drug expert they may contact in order to verify their research, ask their questions, and voice their concerns.”
AudibleRx provides consumer medication information to patients in an audible format to help patients better understand their pharmaceutical care, increase adherence, and decrease adverse events.
“As we all know, the Internet is saturated with medication information and prescription advertisements,” Leuck pointed out, which is why it is important for pharmacists to steer patients toward accurate online health information.
The Drug Information Portal at the National Library of Medicine maintains an excellent library of written consumer medication information, noted Leuck. “Patients who are challenged with literacy, visual impairment, or just learn better by listening may visit AudibleRx for medical information in audible format.” For more information, visit www.audiblerx.com.
Several resources are available to help patients make sure they obtain their prescriptions from a reputable online pharmacy. The National Library of Medicine offers a free, 16-minute tutorial on Evaluating Internet Health Information.
A consumer safety guide about buying prescription medicine online from FDA and the National Council on Patient Information and Education can be found at www.fda.gov/Drugs/ResourcesForYou/ucm080588.htm.
FDA’s program, BeSafeRx–Know Your Online Pharmacy, includes tips for identifying safe online pharmacies.
The National Council on Patient Information and Education (NCPIE) addresses critical medicine safe use issues such as adherence improvement, prescription drug abuse prevention, and quality improvements in health care provider–patient communication.