Pharmacy’s Future in the Digital Age Explored at DHX


In the digital age, exponential technologies are converging and transforming how we engage in health care.

The California Pharmacists Association’s (CPhA) second annual digital health conference, DHX Virtual 2020, has broken new ground once again. Last year’s inaugural conference1 was the first-of-its kind to explore digital health application in pharmacy practice.

This year’s conference built upon this theme, and, importantly, expanded its reach to include interprofessional presenters and participants representing perspectives from across the health care ecosystem with the aim of designing pharmacy’s future together.

In the digital age, exponential technologies are converging and transforming how we connect with family and friends, access products and services, and even how we engage in health care—all accessible with a click of a button. The global pandemic has accelerated the integration of a range of digital health products and solutions such as telehealth, remote patient monitoring, and at-home diagnostics and demonstrated their value in maintaining essential care services.

Today, evidence-based treatments have expanded beyond drugs and biologics to include modalities such as prescription digital therapeutics—software that delivers a therapeutic intervention to prevent, manage, or treat disease. Pharmacists may soon find that patients are routinely receiving medications plus their digital companion to support self-management of their health, transitioning from reactive care to proactive, personalized care.

As founder and chair of DHX, my vision was to contribute to increasing pharmacists’ awareness about this rapidly advancing area of health care, to create a forum for learning and exchange of ideas among leading experts and those on the frontlines, and to inspire pharmacists to take the lead in defining our role in leveraging these technologies to optimize our approach to care. It has been exciting to observe how DHX has resonated with participants.

Many at the individual and organizational level have shared how they are now actively taking steps to ensure pharmacists and student pharmacists are prepared and engaged to shape how digital health technology can be applied to augment the care provided today and shape the future of pharmacy practice.

During the 3-day interactive conference, individuals from across the United States and around the globe (27 states and 4 countries) connected virtually to hear from renowned pharmacy luminaries and digital health innovators and thought leaders. Beyond providing continuing education and exposure to new technologies, the conference served as a summit or large-scale stakeholder meeting in which presenters and participants shared perspectives, identified opportunities and challenges, and suggested approaches to address gaps while collectively exploring health, well-being, and medication optimization through digital health integration.

Day 1: Discovery and Paving New Paths

The first day at DHX was devoted to networking and discovery, where participants had the opportunity to customize their own adventure. Participants explored the exhibit booths in the virtual expo, attended breakout discussions, and engaged in 1:1 video chat.

The expo provided an opportunity to learn about a range of digital health products and engage in dialogue with company representatives and fellow conference participants to consider use cases for the products and approaches to effectively applying them in practice. The Pharmacists Paving New Paths breakout discussions provided exposure to new and emerging roles for pharmacists.

A few examples of topics covered included pharmacists working as domain experts designing digital health products, pharmacists using data science to drive clinical outcomes and business value, and pharmacists applying pharmacogenomics in personalizing medication therapy—the importance of mentorship, leading, and well-being was also explored.

Day 2: Primer on Digital Health

On the second day of DHX, the foundational elements of the digital health ecosystem were discussed: categories, evidence base for digital medicine and digital therapeutics, and evolving policy, regulatory, and payment considerations. Keynote presenters provided a look at the acceleration of health innovation and the digital future of pharmacy.

Panelists from leading digital health companies, academia, and professional organizations discussed several areas that have seen significant growth and uptake in 2020 including telehealth, remote patient monitoring, and devices that assist with early detection and self-management of chronic conditions. A common theme was that these technologies will not replace the human touch, but instead are tools that will augment the care we provide.

Day 3: Pharmacy in the Digital Age

The final day of DHX focused on pharmacy practice transformation through technology integration. Presenters shared how they are re-imagining traditional pharmacy, creating net new models of pharmacy (virtual and hybrid models), scaling clinical pharmacy services, and leveraging machine learning and data analytics. The closing session explored opportunities on the horizon integrating 3D printing medication and multi-omics to deliver personalized medicine, as well as novel approaches on how to prepare student pharmacists and practicing pharmacists for emerging roles now and into the future.

Want to learn more about digital health? CPhA welcomes you to join us for DHX 2021. You can also access CPhA’s Digital Health Corner to read monthly articles on the fundamentals of digital health and gain insights from health and technology thought leaders.

About the Author

Parisa Vatanka, PharmD, CTTS, founder and chair, DHX


1VatankaP, LoftonJC. Re-envisioning the Pharmacist’s Role in the Era of Digital Health — CPhA’s Inaugural Digital Health Conference. Journal of Contemporary Pharmacy Practice (2020) 67 (2): 23—32.

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