Why Doesn't Anyone Want to 'Hack' Pharmacy?

'Hacking' Healthcare: A great endeavor

My Twitter and news feeds seem be blowing up lately with a large number of events focused on reinventing healthcare. I won't argue that's a bad thing. Sometimes to fix a growing problem (healthcare) we need to invite others (patients, technologist, etc.) outside of the 'normal' players (healthcare providers) to help create a solution. 

Several that have caught my attention include the recent #mobilehealthattack at Mass General with MIT Hacking Medicine. There were a number of ideas that I eagerly saw posted that really intrigued and impressed me. It's great to see so many great minds and high energy personalities pushing the boundaries of healthcare and medicine. Another group I have seen include Hacking Pediatrics, recently concluded this October. 

The power of social media is heavily propagating the ideas produced at these events to other health professionals and the public at large. One individual I think that is really pushing this well is Joyce Lee, MD with her involvement in HealthDesignBy.Us, a group looking to hack health overall with multiple people with different skills. 

But Where is the Love for Pharmacy?

This question doesn't keep me up at night (usually) but does concern me. Why haven't I seen pharmacist or the overall pharmacy profession trying to make a substantial impact on healthcare? Why aren't others interested in changing pharmacy, for the better?

Looking at the big picture, almost half of the US population is on one medication, and over 20% are on 3 or more medications daily. (Source: CDC) So odds are, you are a loved one is on a medication. You have been at the pharmacy waiting to pick up medications, and have seen a bit of pharmacies chaotic workflow. 

How can we 'Hack' pharmacy to increase access to medications, ensure quality and reduction of 'errors,' help increase literacy of medications, and the involvement of pharmacy in the grand-scheme of healthcare? 

Some of the reasons I feel for the lack of interest includes the following:

  • Pharmacy is an Insular Practice: Most of the public, and indeed other healthcare practitioners, have no idea how pharmacy works. So how could you be interested in helping when you have no idea what 'it' does? Pharmacists and the overall practice should try to be more open with what we do on a daily basis and how we work.
  • It's not a 'Sexy' Field: The old liner "Is there a Doctor in the House?" would not have quite the same ring to it if it was "Is there a Pharmacist in the House?" Pharmacy seems to take a backseat to the overall healthcare infrastructure, and not regarded heavily, despite the fact that the majority of medicine rests with the use of pharmacologic therapy and pharmacists are the pharmacy are often times the last health professionals and location patients see on their way on the way home from the hospital or clinic.

I truly hope it's a mixture of the above, and not that pharmacy doesn't matter or is an antiquated profession that will disappear that prevents individuals from looking at 'hacking' pharmacy. 

How Could this Change?

In all honesty, I am not sure. I'm not sure if this is something that a few personalities in pharmacy will have to create on their own (InPharmD), if pharmacy organization/society will get involved with funding/grants, whether students will lead this (PIllPack), or if others outside the pharmacy community will come in and 'disrupt' on their own. For example, I saw this announcement for a panel on innovating medication adherence, and noted there is not one pharmacist involved. 

The topic of medication adherence, an area that research that has demonstrated negative patient outcomes time and time again as well as increasing overall healthcare cost, is one area that I think pharmacy can really change. And yet, I see little being done. I hope pharmacists will warm up to the idea they need to be involved in these events, and that others may start looking to see how they can "Hack/Disrupt" pharmacy practice int he future.