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AR you ready?

Even people who haven’t heard of augmented reality are probably familiar with its application in their daily lives. If they’ve played with Snapchat or Instagram filters, participated in the Pokémon GO craze or used digital tools from beauty companies to try before buying, they’ve used some form of AR. Fuse by Cardinal Health, the company’s innovation center, is exploring the role AR can play in patient care and showcased a prototype on the show floor at Cardinal Health RBC 2018.

“At Fuse by Cardinal Health, our explorations always start with the needs of the patient or user. Pharmacists are looking for tools that help them teach and coach patients about medication adherence,” Keith Gasper, principal engineer at Fuse by Cardinal Health, said.

According to an article on Essential Insights, an online publication sharing healthcare industry expertise from Cardinal Health, 51% of those 65 years and older take at least five prescription drugs regularly, and 63% of them say they forget their meds. Improving adherence should be a goal for all pharmacists, as adherence can lead to patients experiencing better outcomes, and nonadherence can result in revenue loss when prescriptions go unfilled.

“Augmented reality can be a powerful teaching tool for caregivers. Patients can understand complex topics related to their care through augmented reality aids that are visual, non-textual, three-dimensional and compelling,” Gasper continued.

At Cardinal Health RBC, Gasper and his team demonstrated how AR could be useful when taking medication. If patients had an AR-enabled tablet inside their medicine cabinet that could read medication labels, superimposing easy-to-understand 3-D graphics above the pill bottles with AR, it could help reinforce information that pharmacists want the patient to remember. This also could show auxiliary labels and medication schedule info, as well as warn against taking expired medication or highlight any potential interactions.

Gasper noted that this could be especially helpful in care transition situations when a patient gets home from a hospital visit overwhelmed with information and possible new treatment plans. These situations are the most fruitful for the nature of AR, he said. “Explaining how medications help your heart by using a visual, 3-D beating heart is more illustrative than using a drawing or pamphlet and is likely to be more memorable,” Gasper said.

On the show floor, the Fuse team was also interested in hearing from pharmacists about the potential uses they saw for AR in their pharmacies as a patient tool. Gasper said that they were particularly keen on its ability to bridge gaps in communication, possibly due to language barriers, in the pharmacy. Many suggested an in-store AR kiosk that would help patients find out more about products or the medication they’re taking.

With no requirement for specialized equipment, Gasper said, he sees a lot of potential in AR in a more straightforward way than other altered reality tools. “We are energized by AR because we can create powerful interactive experiences without the high barrier of entry that virtual reality or mixed reality require,” he said.

As technology continues to improve, Gasper said pharmacy tasks that can be manual or repetitive will become more commonly automated, leaving pharmacists better able to provide additional patient care services. As part of that, connectivity — integrating patient data from various sources and keeping it in one place — will be key for pharmacists and patients. Additionally, he said, home devices will be more connected. That leaves AR essentially at the intersection of connectivity and patient-facing tools.

“By taking familiar home devices and improving them through better connectivity and usability, we can help caregivers and families stay up-to-date on the status and health of their loved one,” Gasper said.
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