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Research breaks ground on digital health tools in pharmacy

Research breaks ground on digital health tools in pharmacy | Picture of a hand touching the screen of a mobile phone on a table - The Canadian Foundation For Pharmacy

Research breaks ground on digital health tools in pharmacy

OCTOBER 2020 – A government-funded research project aims to help pharmacists find their place in a digital world.

Headshot of Michael Cardinal
Michael Cardinal

“Pharmacy is being disrupted and I believe there will be radical changes in the next three to five years,” says Michael Cardinal, Chief Clinical Officer at Therappx, provider of the software pharmacy platform that underpins the research. “Pharmacists need to be where patients are at, which is essentially their smartphones. It is important that we understand where we fit in and offer care accordingly, whether online or in the bricks-and-mortar pharmacy.”

The two-year research project, led by Dr. Line Guénette, researcher at the Quebec-Laval University Research Centre, focuses on the integration and impact of digital health tools (web and mobile apps and digital therapeutic tools) in pharmacy practice. It has received $160,000 in funding from MEDTEQ, established by the governments of Quebec and Canada to accelerate innovation and integration of Canadian medical technologies, and AGE-WELL, a federally funded network focused on techologies for healthy aging. The Canadian Foundation for Pharmacy is one of two private-sector collaborators (along with Therappx) involved in the project, as required by MEDTEQ’s funding criteria.

Therappx was founded in 2018 by a group of Canadian pharmacists who sought to integrate digital health tools (DHTs) into daily practice. The platform uses bots  to seek out and sort through DHTs as they become available in the market. Those with potential clinical value are screened further by the pharmacy team, and the most promising tools go to a panel of clinicians (pharmacists, physicians and other healthcare providers) for expert review. The end result is a suite of best-in-class DHTs that are evidence-based and safe for patients, which pharmacists can recommend with confidence.

Next, the Therappx matching algorithm helps pharmacists narrow down their recommendations even further, based on an assessment of patients’ individual needs and goals. The online assessment can be completed by pharmacists or by patients directly.

“Ultimately, this algorithm will be trained to understand which recommended tools have generated clinical outcomes, and that will lead to predictive artificial intelligence as a decision-support tool. Pharmacists will be able to make even more specific recommendations based on the patient’s data points,” says Cardinal.

Therappx already has a platform containing information on more than a 1,000 DHTs. For this research, their team is currently in the process of selecting 200 DHTs for their ability to support patients in medication adherence in different therapeutic areas, including of diabetes, hypertension, depression, asthma and COPD. The active research phase of the project will involve four to six pharmacies in Quebec, eight to 12 pharmacists and 300 patients over a six-month period. The primary objectives are to validate the components of a software pharmacy platform and determine whether it improves patients’ engagement with DHTs; whether the targeting of a specific DHT for a given patient increases engagement; and whether pharmacists’ prescribing of DHTs increases engagement and enables pharmacists to better track their patients remotely. The secondary objective is to assess changes to medication adherence, based on claims data from the province’s drug plan obtained with patient consent.

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