Fuse looks at ‘future of pharmacy’ while showcasing its adherence and wellness innovation

On the tradeshow floor at Cardinal Health RBC 2017, the booth for the company’s innovation lab, Fuse, was staffed by Fuse engineers and healthcare innovation experts highlighting their work to develop solutions for the evolving pharmacy business, as well as fit pharmacists’ ever-changing needs.

“As the innovation center of Cardinal Health, Fuse is constantly looking to innovate in the area of health care,” Fuser, Jessie Olesnanik, said. “We're looking about five years out — what are the possibilities for what the practice of pharmacy will look like, how might the pharmacist’s role change in that amount of time and how can we show that Fuse and Cardinal Health are thinking about things in the near future and developing solutions to address that?”

To showcase these elements, the booth was divided into three sections: Explore, Experiment and Pilot.

In the Explore area, Fusers hear from customers about what they think the future of pharmacy will look like in the coming years, and they showcase Cardinal Health thought leadership on how the pharmacy and technology’s role will change over time in the Experiment section of the booth.

But the rubber meets the road in the Pilot section. Fuser Derrick Peña was showcasing the lab’s InPower™ Wellness System medication adherence solution, currently being piloted in the Columbus, Ohio area. The pilot, which is set to last six months, has brought the InPower medication dispenser that reminds patients when it’s time to take their medication, walking them through the process to monitor adherence,into the homes of  patients with diabetes. The device pairs with a blood glucose monitor, sending the patient’s pharmacist real-time data on both adherence and blood glucose levels.

“There are probably a dozen actual devices and 100 or so mobile apps addressing adherence, but our hypothesis is that with those, the burden is still on the patient,” Peña said. “We want to completely remove that burden from the patient.”

The participating pharmacies fill a patient’s medications in pods that have an RFID tag built in, which is then scanned by the InPower device, removing the need for patients to manually tell the device what medications they take and when. With regard to their blood-glucose monitoring, patients no longer need to keep a physical log.

The potential that it is showing already - just with a glucometer - has Peña contemplating how InPower could help patients in other disease states. And Peña said that stories he has heard from the trial have reinforced the potential that InPower has to improve health outcomes for patients who use it.

“We had a patient in our recent trial who started, was relatively adherent, but then the pharmacist noticed a drop-off in adherence in her scores,” he said. “The pharmacist proactively reached out to the patient, had a conversation, figured some things out and within a few days we saw her adherence rise back to where it should be. To see that is really why we're doing this — to see that value created, especially from the pharmacist to a patient.”

In addition to providing an opportunity to showcase InPower’s potential, Olesnanik said that RBC 2017 also provided an opportunity to hear from Cardinal Health customers about what might improve their workflow. She said that at RBC 2016, attendees suggested the need for an easier way of dispensing drugs with the InPower pods, which led them to develop the PodPal integrated RFID writer/read and scale.

“This is a great opportunity in all of these areas to get that customer interaction, listen to what they're saying and help it guide all of the solutions that we're creating,” she said.

Photos courtesy of Alabastro Photography