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The role of technology in evolving pharmaceutical sector

Dr. Anil Pethe
Wednesday, August 18, 2021, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

Technology has affected every aspect of human life in the recent past, from communication, transportation, manufacturing, and industry to medical and pharmaceutical companies. To plan their daily work programme more effectively and efficiently, modern-day pharmacists use information technology (IT) systems. The technique is easy to use and enables more work to be handled promptly without much difficulty. Furthermore,  information technology standards for emerging operating practices are regarded as a critical portion of the pharmaceutical industry, with research & development (R&D) and production relying heavily on a technology-based framework. The evolution of digital technology takes into account the very fact that  information technology can deliver its services to a large population worldwide in a way that can be personalized and makes everyday life effective, less monotonous and repayable, and that it is accurate and consistent in the use of terms and taxonomy and mass customization.

New technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI), bar code identification (BI), telecare, e-prescription, and others, can help clinicians and pharmacists in many ways by allowing the storage of patient planned proceedings and records and smoothening the progress of the electronic statute of boundaries. As a result,  information technology will improve patient health and safety, allow pharmaceutical industry experts and professionals to provide high-quality and effective treatment, and assist patients in understanding the majority of their medications. Information technology has had the greatest and most significant effect on people's lives worldwide in recent years. Many pharmaceutical manufacturing firms have embraced computer technology owing to various benefits of automated information technology. On the other hand, people have faced significant challenges on a global scale due to changing disease eugenics, population burdens, and healthcare stipulations. In the past, pharmacists had to deal with a variety of challenges in their professional life. These myriad challenges can be addressed by increasing the presence and participation of emerging technology in the global push to achieve universal healthcare. Therefore, understanding the role of technology in overcoming these obstacles is critical.

The pharmaceutical industry, which faces stringent regulatory challenges, will greatly benefit from technological advancements. Retail and outpatient pharmacies may use pharmacy technology to enhance their operations. Pharmacies can provide improved healthcare to patients by incorporating technology into their operations. This also aids in improving their organizational, compliance, clinical, regulatory, and financial results. Technology helps pharmacies improve their efficiency and access to important medical and patient information in their daily activities. The potential advantages are not the only factor in the adoption of pharmaceutical technologies; federal law also affects the adoption of pharmacy technology. It has rapidly evolved in the United States and abroad how medicines are administered, supplied, and regulated. Health information technology is an information technology applied to healthcare at the heart of this change. Health information technology, which consists of various resources for managing and sharing patient data electronically, is making paper records obsolete. In innovative ways, health information technology assists pharmacists in providing better care or treatment to patients and in making decisions in real-time. In short, health information technology helps the drug sector reduce healthcare costs and improves patient quality, and has a beneficial impact on the overall healthcare system. In other words, it helps the drug industry. Here are some technical advances that enable the pharmaceutical industry to progress.

e-prescription, which is a large part of electronic healthcare records, is one of the ways physicians are meeting the affordable care act criteria. Opposite to common opinion, e-prescription is beneficial to healthcare providers and pharmacies. Pharmacists can save time and money by using e-prescription. Transferring a patient's discharge medication from secondary to primary care correctly on time is critical for ensuring smooth patient care. This also aids in the prevention of errors caused by misunderstanding. Several hospitals invested in e-prescribing programmes. Electronic prescription structure is used to simplify medical prescriptions and their management and distribution. In some instances, this has aided hospitals in reducing drug errors, thus improving patient safety. However, there are certain drawbacks associated with electronic prescription systems.

Furthermore, instead of sending discharge details to neighborhood pharmacists, e-prescription systems send them to common practitioners and electronic prescription systems are fully legible and offer pharmacists patient data to aid in assessing dangerous medication interactions. In addition, pharmacists are no more required to contact healthcare regarding disputed medicines. It also assists patients to avoid unwanted surprises in their prescriptions. Main benefit of e-prescription is that it enables healthcare providers and pharmacists to determine if a prescription is covered by a patient's insurance plan on the spot. Another benefit of e-prescription is that it automates the refill authorization process with only a few taps.

Recording immunization provided by pharmacists
Pharmacists are responsible for immunization alongside physicians who play a crucial role in the well-being of society. State governments increase each year's number and types of vaccines offered to patients by local pharmacists. In 2012, almost 15 per cent of all flu vaccines were administered in the local pharmacy, the efficacy of pharmacist-administered vaccinations is seen from this fact.  Vaccinations in pharmacies can be now recorded to provide a reliable and complete health record for patients and their healthcare providers, thanks to technological advances. Additionally, this simplifies the process of insurance reimbursement for pharmacies that provide immunizations.

Bar code identification
Bar code recognition of medications has been shown to reduce drug administration errors and increase medication history completeness when combined with e-prescribing systems. On the other hand, health experts frequently devise a manner to avoid bar code identification for the reason that they consider medication recognition by bar code to be a time-consuming procedure. Falsified Medicines Directive (FMD), a directive for European healthcare suppliers, recommends specific recognition of medication at the point of free to help combat forgery. Though the framework to support this has yet to be established, the method will almost certainly include bar code medication recognition, which will significantly impact pharmacy workflow.

Telecare is the delivery of healthcare services as well as appointments to the patient’s homes through digital communications technology system. Telecare has many possible advantages, including eliminating the demand to visit the physician to increase access to treatment, placing patients at the forefront of their care, as well as lowering healthcare expenses and travel periods. The benefits offered by telecare, on the other hand, are based on various care scenarios and applications. Furthermore, current research indicates that more evidence of telecare's benefits and cost-effectivity is needed to support additional investment in the technology. Following previous technologies, the pharmaceutical sector is being transformed. Healthcare is improved and prices are being greatly reduced. While this progress constitutes significant technological progress in the pharmaceutical industry, it is not only a technology that enables pharmacies to improve operations and but also provide better patient care. Adherence monitoring, mobile devices, automated delivery, and drug therapy management technology make a difference for pharmaceutical industries.

Automated dispensing cabinet
A computerized drug storage unit or cabinet designed for hospitals is known as an automated dispensing cabinet (ADC). Automated dispensing cabinets allow drugs to be processed and dispensed close to the point of care while maintaining, monitoring and tracking drug delivery. This reduces human error, increases filling time, and encourage workers to concentrate on patient interaction rather than prescription filling.
Prescription drug monitoring programme

In the majority of the countries, prescription drug monitoring programmes collect data on state-specific controlled prescription substances. In most states, it is optional but highly advised that the prescription drug monitoring programme database be checked before completing a regulated prescription. The expertise in the prescription drug monitoring programme of a state is useful for doctors and pharmacists to ensure the welfare of all patients when prescribing and using regulated medicinal products.

Medication therapy management
A pharmacist's summary is offered to the patient through medication therapy management, an online platform for managing a patient's medication. To locate and resolve drug issues, the pharmacist will review all drugs prescribed to the patient by all prescribers offering treatment and any over-the-counter (OTC) and herbal items. Medication errors, duplication of prescriptions, unwanted medications, and the need for medication for an untreated or poorly controlled disorder are all possible issues. In addition, to ensure proper drug usage, the pharmacist will provide medication-related education, consultation, and guidance to the patient or their caregiver.

Furthermore, the medical industry's technical advancements have been nothing short of incredible in the last decade. These game-changing technologies showed an influence on the pharmaceutical industry and products. Here are some examples of  how technology has influenced the pharmaceutical industry.

3D printed organs
The more popular and affordable 3D printing is becoming, the scope has extended into a variety of industries. Scientists and medical professionals are currently researching how to print organs using bioprinters. Organs can be printed using tissue printed by the printers. Some speculate that 3D-printed organs will be used for transplants and other uses, such as science, within the next five years. While the latest technology has the potential to eliminate the lack of organs available for transplant recipients, it remains to be seen how quickly printed organs would be readily available.

Artificial intelligence
Like 3D printing, many companies, including the pharmaceutical industry, are increasingly using artificial intelligence (AI). Artificial intelligence doesn't mean robots are cleverer than people, and from there, things are getting awful. In this sense, artificial intelligence simply refers to the use of computers and artificial intelligence for basic tasks such that tasks requiring human energy and brainpower will save time. For example, similar technologies are being investigated for use in the medical and pharmaceutical industries for facial recognition. Researchers working in the research and development aspects of the pharmaceutical industry also look to artificial intelligence to find different forms of efficacy in the development of new groundbreaking medicines for elements and compounds.

Obalon balloon system
The Obalon balloon system and others are equipment intended to support patient's weight loss. The filled saline balloons are either inserted or swallowed (usually with an endoscope). The product works by taking place in the stomach of a patient so that they eat less and lose weight. In combination with routine training, balloons perform best. The Obalon balloon system uses three individual balloons for a three-month duration. The ballons are extracted through an endoscopy at the end of a six-month cycle. This technical breakthrough can be a successful means of making life changes, including diet and exercise alone for individuals who have suffered. Doctors must administer intragastric balloons.

Biochemical product development
In terms of laymen, the way a prescription drug is made is the biochemical product creation. Those specializing in pharmaceutical biochemistry develop new medicines for people who live with a health problem. They also study the interaction between medications and human health and well-being. In biochemical product growth, like other technical advances, there are also huge steps forward. In some instances, they use artificial intelligence to help them achieve breakthroughs. Interestingly, as pharmaceutical scientists and engineers work on medicines to enhance human health, we will see what the future holds.

How are all these advancements in technology in pharmaceuticals related to a pharmacist's tasks? It is simple. Pharmacists will be at the forefront of dispensing different types of drugs, and they usually deal with patients while taking medications. They need to keep up-to-date with new technology so that patients’ questions can be answered during pickup. Not only the pharmacists need to adapt to change in the future, but pharmacy technicians must also adapt to them. Pharmacy technician's responsibilities include pharmaceutical inventory management, drug packing, and drug marking, customer care, such as phone answers, people inspections, etc. Pharmacists, supervisors and pharmacy technicians are vital ties between the public and the pharmaceutical sector.

(Author is Associate Professor & Associate Dean, NMIMS School of Pharmacy & Technology Management, Hyderabad Campus)

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