Can We Engage Patients During the 15min Wait at the Pharmacy?


Your medication will be ready in 15 Minutes

Odds are you have filled a medication at a pharmacy, and you decide to wait, and inevitably hear those famous words. I'm not going to get into operational side of things that go into what the pharmacy needs to do to get that medication ready for you quickly. What I want to talk about is management of that time for the patient.

So lets look at the pharmacy. Maybe theres a few chairs, some magazines you could buy or peruse while waiting, a Blood Pressure machine. And your smartphone. Maybe the patient will read, or just chat on the phone, or play a game. It's 15mins of downtime. Ideally, the pharmacy would prefer the patient to walk around and look at other products in the store to make purchases, but this is not always the case. So I am proposing a means of using that time as an outreach opportunity for the patient.

Using Technology to Help Patients with Their Care

My question is how to engage patients while they are in the 'waiting area' for the medication in order to help address health issues? Ive had several ideas, that could be combined together I am sure:

  • Education Possibilities - For new medications, patients could be educated on the drug (e.g. what it does, side effects, possible drug interaction [especially in a personalized manner if the persons med list is tied together]), and could help the patient identify items they may want to ask the pharmacist on when being offered counseling. Other opportunities could include disease state information, along with recommendations for lifestyle management (if trying to make money for the pharmacy, could implement adds and coupons for food or associated items). Other options include videos, such as how to use a new inhaler or changes in medication delivery mechanics (e.g. Change from MDI to Respimat inhalers currently being seen).
  • Mobile Technology - The pharmacy can tap into the fact that many patients have a mobile device. QR codes or other items could be provided in the pharmacy to initiate teaching opportunities to the patient through their device. Other options could be 'Digital Health' stations that could be a fixed unit the patient could use and access information from.
  • Pharmacist Interaction - Patients could then use the device to create questions or other inquiries to ping back to the pharmacist, so they know ahead of time patient concerns or questions and prepare accordingly.
  • Digital Health Tools - A trial/test station could also be implemented in the pharmacy for patients to play with if they are interested in a new tool for their health. This could include wearables for health and fitness, or new associated devices coming to market (e.g. bluetooth BP monitors, glucose monitors, Alivecor) which would be beneficial for pharmacies embracing digital health tools to sell.

Could this work?

This is my biggest question, and I really am pulling from other ideas I've seen and publications. One recent publication by Ludwin and Greyson in the Journal of Hospital Medicine entitled "Use of smartphones and mobile devices in hospitalized patients: Untapped opportunities for inpatient engagement," proposed the use of patients devices as a means of teaching patients during their hospital stay. Taking this to another avenue, I envision the same could be said about the pharmacy during the albeit briefer stay.

To make this happen would involve a little bit of a logistical conundrum in terms of set up in the pharmacy of material, and finding space (which is always a premium in the pharmacy), along with the creation of the tools. Could this be a business opportunity for a third party to develop? Possibly, though I think it may be easier to develop internally.

Hope you enjoyed this thought process, would welcome comments or ideas of how it could be improved upon or any past experiences.

Timothy AungstComment