HEALTH

Wireless home-based healthcare applications, services set to grow, analysis finds

BY DSN STAFF

NEW YORK That $4.4 billion opportunity is really only the tip of the iceberg. The real opportunity, especially for pharmacists and their nurse practitioner/physician assistant partners, is in the ancillary services that will accompany the functionality behind wireless diagnostic devices — think a medication therapy management/chronic disease coaching one-two punch.

It’s not a question of if wireless diagnostic devices will realize that full $4.4 billion potential, but when. That’s primarily because cost will be a big driver behind adoption of these devices. The fact is that no matter what shape healthcare reform takes, the system will eventually go bankrupt without an emphasis on disease-management/prevention (a.k.a. MTM/chronic disease coaching).

Another driver behind widespread adoption will be how nicely wireless diagnostic device functionality will dovetail with the currently-developing electronic health records. As is evident with the current meteoric rise in popularity of iPhone and other smart phone applications, not to mention the increasing popularity of such social media sites as Facebook and Twitter, it’s more and more becoming a wired, wired world out there.

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Op-ed: Adherence deserves historic collaboration

BY Steve Anderson

I took an opportunity at the 2009 NACDS Annual Meeting to reflect on words spoken 70 years earlier by then-NACDS president Nate Shapero of Cunningham Drug Stores. His words at the second annual convention of NACDS, on May 5, 1939, could have been delivered today: “At our first annual convention last year, I sounded the keynote of the ‘Triumph of Cooperation’ … our association … is an effective instrument for the elimination of the evils in our industry, and for the development of a sound relationship between the manufacturer … the producer … the chain store … and between ourselves and the public.”

 

If there is any doubt that there are challenges that need to be overcome, and that there is a need for collaboration, just consider the attacks that are levied against pharmacy and pharmaceutical suppliers. There are those who say that pharmacists perform only a dispensing function. About manufacturers, some remain fixated in their rhetoric on what they call the high price of prescription drugs, without any context related to research costs, the public benefit and the costs avoided by treatment of chronic disease.

 

 

It just may be that the concept of adherence is the bridge to greater understanding among policy-makers and the public of the dual value of pharmacy and pharmaceuticals. As this understanding increases, so will the appreciation of pharmacists, pharmacies and medications.

 

 

Medications are important to the management of chronic diseases that require long-term or lifelong therapy. Pharmacists are uniquely qualified as medication experts to work with patients to manage their medications and chronic conditions, and play a key role in helping patients take their medications as prescribed.

 

 

Nonadherence with medications is a significant problem. According to a report by the World Health Organization, in developed countries only 50% of patients with chronic diseases adhere to medication therapies. In the United States, failure to take medications as prescribed has been estimated to impose more than $177 billion dollars annually in direct and indirect costs. Poor adherence leads to unnecessary disease progression, reduced functional status, more extensive and more expensive medical care, a lower quality of life and premature death.

 

 

Studies have demonstrated that pharmacist-provided medication therapy management services can help. In one frequently cited study, every $1 invested in MTM services reduced overall healthcare costs by more than $12. We must spread the news about this opportunity to reduce healthcare costs, while improving patient care and quality of life.

 

 

This is why NACDS is working with allied organizations for enhancement of the MTM benefit in Medicare Part D. That also is why the NACDS Foundation is supporting educational initiatives, along with the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, that are designed to enhance the public understanding of factors affecting medication adherence. 

 

 

Together, we must boost appreciation for the value that comes from proper utilization of prescription drugs. During the current healthcare reform debate, NACDS has a lot to offer as a retail association. We can make a personal and credible pitch for the overall benefits of the kinds of products and services for which suppliers are responsible. By definition, pharmacies and pharmacists are the segment of the supply chain that is closest to the people.

 

 

In last year’s Gallup survey that measured the public’s perception of professional integrity, pharmacists came in second, right behind nurses. Pharmacists have been in the top three each of the past six years. Our industry is blessed with ideal ambassadors for mutual issues of importance, which directly affect the well-being of patients and the entire healthcare system.

 

 

Nate Shapero was on to something when he spoke in 1939 about NACDS’ ability to leverage productive relationships. He did not live in Utopia any more than we do. He was a businessman — struggling with economic turmoil, competition, business relationships and responsibilities to view his world broadly, at the helm of an industry association. But these factors did not delay, derail or deny the vision and pursuit of a common purpose. That is a concept that must not be lost on us today.

 

 

On behalf of NACDS, we look forward to working with you, for the ultimate good of the patients we serve.

 

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CDC releases updated flu guidance for back-to-school

BY Michael Johnsen

ATLANTA The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday released updated guidance for school administrators and state and local governments to help decrease the spread of flu among students and school staff during the 2009-2010 school year.

Approximately 55 million students and 7 million staff attend the more than 130,000 public and private schools in the United States each day, the CDC noted, representing about one-fifth of the country’s population.

In a nutshell, in lieu of closing schools outright at the first hint of influenza-like illness, CDC is suggesting that sick kids and teachers stay home and that children and teachers attending schools emphasize illness etiquette — i.e., washing hands, covering mouth when coughing/sneezing and proper disposal of tissues.

The CDC is suggesting that ill students and staff be quarantined in a separate room until they can be sent home. CDC also recommends that they wear a surgical mask, if possible, and that those who care for ill students and staff wear protective gear such as a mask.

Based on the severity of 2009 H1N1 flu-related illness thus far, the CDC guidance recommends that students and staff with influenza-like illness remain home until 24 hours after resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications.

School staff should routinely clean areas that students and staff touch often with the cleaners they typically use. However, special cleaning with bleach and other non-detergent-based cleaners is not necessary, the CDC stated.

The guidance also provides a checklist for making decisions at the local government level, which is usually tasked with the decision around possible school closures. The decision to dismiss students should balance the goal of reducing the number of people who become seriously ill or die from influenza with the goal of minimizing social disruption and safety risks to children sometimes associated with school dismissal. Based on the experience and knowledge gained in jurisdictions that had large outbreaks in spring 2009, the potential benefits of preemptively dismissing students from school are often outweighed by negative consequences, including students being left home alone, health workers missing shifts when they must stay home with their children, students missing meals, and interruption of students’ education. CDC expects that the overall impact of 2009 H1N1 should be greater as compared to earlier this spring, and school dismissals may be in fact be warranted depending on the disease burden and other conditions.

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