Harnessing Technology to Boost Medication Access


Better access to prescription drugs improves patients’ experience, adherence, and health.

We live in an age of prolific biomedical innovation, as novel treatments for cancer, metabolic conditions, neurological diseases, and other indications appear on pharmacy shelves almost monthly. But if a medication exists and patients don’t have ready access, is that drug fulfilling its promise? Scientific innovation is not valuable on its own, therefore we must also improve how we deliver these life-changing medications to patients.

Image credit: LALAKA | stock.adobe.com

Image credit: LALAKA | stock.adobe.com

Cost is a major barrier to access. Drugs are expensive, and many people lack the resources and insurance coverage to afford them.

Fortunately, many drug companies and affiliated nonprofit organizations offer patient assistance programs (PAPs) to help uninsured and underinsured people access their medicines at no cost. When people participate in a PAP, a non-commercial dispensing pharmacy acts as intermediary, working with the manufacturer, or representatives, to fill the prescriptions.

This complex process requires fluid communication between patients, providers, pharmacies, and drug companies. This is where a robust digital infrastructure that connects different systems pays enormous dividends. A HIPAA-compliant data collection and management practice gives patients better access to their medicines, driving consistent adherence, improved quality of life, and better outcomes.

Digital Technologies to Improve Interaction

Interoperability is a core requirement. A central application programming interface (API) must integrate with multiple platforms to advance HIPAA-compliant data sharing. Through this sophisticated digital system, patients and providers maintain better access to pharmacies, drug companies, and the organizations sponsoring their PAPs.

For the people interacting with this digital system, the infrastructure should be a utility: seamless and invisible. If everything is working appropriately, patients, providers, and drug companies will never have to worry about the underlying complexities or the reliable services that make them work. In turn, manufacturers and other groups orchestrate PAP benefits based on real-time data for inventory management, security, compliance, and traceability.

This is a challenging effort. In addition to the technical issues associated with translating inputs from multiple digital systems, there are several regulatory and privacy concerns. Dispensing pharmacies must ensure that patients’ health care and financial data are well protected, necessitating digital firewalls and other safeguards to keep them separate and encrypted.

Data Analytics: A Key Function to Improve Outcomes

One of the great benefits of a seamless digital system is that it provides access to useful data. With help from machine learning algorithms and other technologies, drug companies, PAP nonprofits and pharmacies can dive into key information about patient access, compliance, and other issues. Analytics provide critical insights to improve access, lower costs, monitor and support adherence and reduce medication errors. This technology can also act as a pharmacy-level electronic health record to ensure patients receive the best possible care.

24/7 Availability Helps Patients Navigate Their Medications

With the digital link in place, the next layer is an intuitive interface for patients and providers. This online portal gives patients precise control over their health information and prescriptions.

Through this portal, patients engage with the PAP provider to enroll in the program, which ensures all their needs are met. They can visit the site to check order status, make sure their allergy and other information is correct, chat with a pharmacist, set up text or email alerts, and perform many other tasks. Having all this functionality gives patients 24/7 access to critical information and helps them communicate with their medication support system whenever they want.

Adopting these digital solutions means patients, physicians, drug companies, medication-focused nonprofits, non-commercial dispensing pharmacies, and others can communicate fluidly, measure their efficacy, troubleshoot problems, gather data, and work together as a cohesive unit to deliver innovative treatments to patients.

The bottom line is creating a secure, compliant, and user-friendly online portal, integrated with the complete ecosystem, providing greater medication access and improving patients’ experience, adherence, and health.

About the Author

Nabil Badr, Chief Technology Officer, Research Associate, Digital Health of Medvantx.

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