Industry Focus: Medication Management
As technology has evolved and its adoption amongst the members of the public as well as professionals in different industries has increased, the healthcare market has been witnessing some momentous changes. Medication Management is only one area affected.
The digital transformation of healthcare has not only brought about some much-needed improvements in how patients and healthcare providers interact to lead to the best possible outcomes, it has also opened up numerous possibilities in the job-seeker market. The burgeoning digital healthcare industry demands a skillful, tech-savvy workforce behind it, which has led to ever-increasing opportunities for graduates and job seekers. In this article, we take a look at what these opportunities look like and what makes you qualified for them. But first, let’s touch upon the role of digital healthcare in the refinement of one of the biggest hurdles in health—medication management:
Why is Medication Management Important?
One major barrier to the improvement of healthcare outcomes for patients across the world today is the lack of medication management. Especially when it comes to care for at-home patients, the chances of patients not being able to manage their own medication properly is a big issue, one which prevents them from experiencing better health or improvements in their conditions.
The biggest victims are elderly patients, who generally are more susceptible to developing comorbidities and thus have to take more medication – prescriptions drugs, over-the-counter drugs, or supplements – than younger adults but who are also more vulnerable to adverse reactions. A grand review of studies on medication management published in an evidence-based handbook for patient safety and quality has found that the more complex a patient’s medication regimen is (for example, the higher the number of pills, the higher the number of providers, etc.), the more likely they are to make errors or fail to comply with the necessary dosages.
Based on the results of studies on medication regime complexity and hospital readmissions, patients discharged with more than five prescribed medications are much more likely to be readmitted within 6 months of discharge. Patient care at home is rather unstructured in comparison to care at healthcare facilities, yet the ability to enjoy the comfort of home along with some independence is also what appeals greatly to patients. This is where digital health can play a valuable role: it can help patients get more coordinated care at home and improve outcomes without causing major disruptions to their lifestyles. By allowing for better medication management, it can help patients and providers avoid potential health emergencies or general deterioration as much as possible.
What are Problems of Medication Management?
According to the National Council on Patient Information and Education, there are several reasons why improper management of medication can occur. Some of the most noteworthy reasons are as follows:
- Inadequate Knowledge amongst Patients. There are many patients who feel compelled to take medication for reasons they don’t completely understand. Many aren’t aware of side effects of going over the recommended dosage or the consequences of omission. Similarly, many do not always know the prescribed amount and timings of medication.
- Inadequate Physical Capacity. For patients who self-manage their medications, factors such as poor vision, strength, and low manual dexterity can cause lower levels of adherence. This could be due to reasons such as being unable to read medication labels properly, to being unable to open containers or break tablets without assistance.
- Inadequate Cognitive Capacity. Poor cognition too affects self-management, since one of the biggest obstacles to proper management is patients simply failing to remember to take their medications as prescribed. However, another common mistake is also that of patients over-consuming after forgetting that they’ve already taken their daily dosage.
- Medication Discrepancies. While healthcare providers may be prescribing a number of medications to patients, they usually don’t have a clear idea of whether or not patients are following instructions properly. Studies indicate that many patients self-prescribe on occasion or take medication that wasn’t ordered. A significant number of patients also stored and used old medications or used OTC drugs that could interact adversely with their prescribed medications.
- Intentional Nonadherence. Oftentimes, the reason behind patients not managing medication properly is deliberate carelessness or omission. This could be because patients underestimate the seriousness of their illness or their vulnerability to complications due to omission. It could also stem from patients experiencing unpleasant side effects.
- Lack of Medication Procurement. For many patients, a failure to take medications as prescribed is often because they haven’t yet filled or renewed their prescriptions at the pharmacy. Factors ranging from the cost of purchasing a prescription to the mere inconvenience of physically going to get the medication could be preventing them from adhering to their regimes.
- Lack of Proper Monitoring. The responsibility to manage medication, particularly for elderly or very ill patients, extends to beyond just the patient themselves. A failure to monitor adherence on the part of healthcare providers or caregivers too can reduce the quality of medication management since the patient themselves may not be able to do so on their own.
How do Digital Health Solutions Improve Medication Management?
Digital health solutions designed with the purpose of addressing these issues can greatly aid in enhancing medication management. According to a report published by Lux Research, the healthcare industry can also save itself an estimated $290 billion a year just by using digital technology such as mHealth to manage medication for patients. By tackling the root causes that lead to mismanagement, solutions such as mobile applications can help patients or their day-to-day care givers better organize and adhere to their medication regimens. Some examples of useful digital health solutions in this regard are:
- Educational Tools. Applications that effectively convey accurate information to patients can help boost adherence. For example, mHealth apps that can explain how specific medicines work and how they must be administered using multimedia such as illustrated videos or audio can help patients understand better. The option to get this information in different languages can greatly help non-English speakers.
- Electronic Reminders. Apps or message-based daily reminders for patients can help them stick to their routines without inadvertently omitting. Being digitally notified before every dose can especially help with more complex medication regimens. Reminders regarding expiration of prescriptions or refills can help too.
- Wearable Technology. Specifically designed wearable biosensors can allow healthcare providers to remotely monitor medication adherence. Furthermore, sensors can inform patients about varying medication requirements such as by alerting asthma patients of impending attacks or tracking blood glucose for those who take insulin.
- Automatic Refill Delivery. Apps that can automatically track when a prescription will finish and then notify pharmacies or other providers to deliver refills right to the patients’ doorsteps will make it much easier for them to manage their medications.
- Communication Tools. Platforms that allow patients or caregivers and providers to communicate such as through chat or video media can help clarify details or help each party keep updated about medication use. Similarly, a patients’ different healthcare providers such as different specialists can also use such tools to ensure that they all are aware of the different medications the patient is on and that they’re compatible.
What do these Digital Developments Mean for the Job Market?
Digital health can clearly transform medication management and healthcare outcomes for the better, and the demand for applicable solutions is on the rise. Digital health startups, tech companies, and consultancies have all started paying more attention to creating and distributing useful digital solutions to providers and patients. Some example of companies that have developed digital solutions to medication management problems are:
- Spencer by HAP Innovations. An in-home medication dispenser that provides reminders and sends out alerts if a dose is missed and shares health insights with the patient, pharmacy, or health provider.
- TELUS Health and DOmedic’s X-Pill PHARMA. An integrated medicine management platform to optimize management of patients’ medication by allowing a real-time flow of information between care teams.
- Patient Partner. An interactive app that gamifies the learning process to educate patients about medication adherence.
- Amiko. A lightweight sensor that fits on medication packaging and tracks the medicine taken, sending information to patients and caregivers through an app.
- Proteus Digital Health. An integrated solution based on ingestible sensors, a wearable sensor patch, a mobile app, and a provider portal.
- MediSafe. Sends a push notification through the app or an automated text message to remind patients to take their pills at the correct times, and notifies a friend or family if missed.
- Dosecast. Adjusts notifications according to the users’ bedtimes, allows reminders to be “snoozed” when patients are busy, and automatically adjusts to time zones.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, and there are many firms already operating in the digital health space (with room for more).
Job Opportunities Related to Medication Management
The more such solutions develop, the more scope there is for individuals with fitting interests and skills. For instance, some of these—and many others—are potential job roles that are likely to be available in the industry:
- mHealth app development/software engineering. Processing, creating, and upgrading mobile or other software that offer patients or health providers unique benefits that cannot be delivered by traditional means.
- Big data analytics. Mining data (auditing, aggregating, validating, and more), working with advanced modeling, and testing and creating results.
- Data protection and security. Mitigating security risks and regulating data uploads to the cloud as per regulatory requirements.
- User Experience/User Interface design. Developing effective UX designs or evaluating existing applications, working with various models and tools to create a polished application with high human-computer interaction.
- Project management. Taking leadership roles in projects, tracking and coordinating different aspects of the project as it develops.
- Digital communications. Developing and editing digital content, tracking and reporting performance analytics, ensuring quality and effectiveness in digital communication efforts.
These are only a handful of roles available within the market. Looking into the needs of specific companies might help you pinpoint open positions suitable for you. With the right vision, resources, and skills, you can even become a digital health vendor by creating their own innovative solutions.
Study Programs to Advance your Career in Medication Management
While jobs are plentiful, the competition to grab them is also tough. There is space for graduates at the undergraduate level as well as the graduate and postgraduate level, but most employers prefer a higher degree level of education and/or work experience. The following are some examples of qualifications that can help acquire jobs in the industry, as well as examples of some universities that offer those courses:
- Data Science and Analytics. Offered by Cardiff University, University of Warwick, University of Sheffield, etc.
- User Experience Design. Offered by University of Dundee, Kingston University, Loughborough University, etc.
- Mobile Application Development. Offered by the University of Kent, University of Derby, University of the West of Scotland, Staffordshire University, etc.
- Digital Media Development. Offered by the University of Brighton, University of Winchester, University of Leeds, Edinburgh Napier University, etc.
- Computer Science. Offered by University of Greenwich, Wrexham Glyndwr University, Univeristy of Bath, etc.
- Networks and Computer Systems Security. Offered by University of Greenwich, University of South Wales, University of Wolverhampton, etc.
- Cyber Security. Offered by Lancaster University, Royal Holloway, University of York, etc.
- Digital Health. University of Strathclyde Glasgow, University of Cumbria, Glasgow Caledonian University, etc.
- Digital Innovation. University of London, London School of Economics, Southampton University, University of Warwick, etc.
The list above represents just a portion of all the possible opportunities available. As digital health takes more hold as an overarching trend in the healthcare community, it is expected not only that patients and healthcare providers will benefit more but that job-seekers too will be able to find employment in one of the many sectors of this industry.