PopRx: Improving Pharmacy-Patient Interaction or Dumbing-Down the Role of Pharmacists?

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pharmacist with senior couple in pharmacy

A recent article published by Canadian Business, a Rogers Media affiliate, talks about how a new mobile application called PopRx is revolutionizing pharmacist-patient interaction. The founder of PopRx, Ali Esmail, argues that the increasing shift to a more digitized world is shifting the way patients receive their medications.

As reported in the Canadian Business article titled “Ali Esmail’s PopRx is reinventing the pharmacy for the mobile-first era,” Esmail claims that his new venture will improve interaction between pharmacists and patients, but there is a strong counter argument that this will only weaken patient care.

While there is no denying that technology plays an important role, it cannot replace the need for face-to-face interaction, especially when it comes to the care of your child or loved one.

You cannot compare the work of a pharmacist in preparing medications and counselling patients to the act of cashing in a cheque using a mobile app. It is a bit insulting to pharmacists and the pharmacy profession to assume that their role does not require face-to-face interaction in delivering patient care.

Furthermore, anyone can perform a Google search and simply diagnose themselves through symptoms they’re experiencing; however, situational and contextual factors need to be assessed for that individual person. Therefore, a misdiagnosis can occur because of the lack of face-to-face counselling.

Similarly, a patient may read a fact sheet related to an new medication, and read all the related side effects; however, only a pharmacist can carefully assess what they’re experiencing and advise them on how to mitigate those risks.

Numerous studies have shown that pharmacy intervention through face-to-face interaction has been proven to improve patient outcomes.

The role of a pharmacist isn’t simply to gather pills in bottles and slap labels on them. There are numerous occasions where doctors have made serious mistakes in the prescriptions they wrote for their own patients that if not corrected by the pharmacist could have resulted in extensive patient harm.

This correction cannot simply be conducted through a mobile app which raises issues around prescription fraud, particularly with delivery of narcotics and other controlled medications that truly need a pharmacist present when delivering them to the patient in person as opposed to through mail delivery on a mobile app.

Most drug therapy problems are only discovered through conversations with the patient and a simple chat does not fill the void that the absence of face-to-face communication would create. This would cause a loss in human interaction and the sensitivity required to provide proper patient care.

A patient’s entire health profile needs to be assessed when a new medication is dispensed. A pharmacist must assess and discuss with the patient their entire medical profile, including previous prescription medications, over the counter and herbal remedies, lifestyle factors, and current medical conditions and allergy status, which all truly require face-to-face interaction to be effective. There may also be an increase in language and communication barriers through text and voice messages when face-to-face communication is absent.

At the end of the day, the buck stops with the pharmacist and not the doctor when it comes to prescription medication. Face-to-face interaction between a pharmacist and the patient is required to ensure the right counselling is delivered and that the medication is truly effect and safe for that particular patient’s needs.