Google Tackles E-Prescriptions
Google Health announced earlier this month that it would partner with Surescripts, a leading e-prescription network, in an effort to allow patients to access to their own prescription histories online.
Surescripts manages e-prescriptions in all major pharmacy chains and more than 10,000 independent pharmacies. The prescription benefit and history information it contains represents 65% of US patients, Google wrote on its blog.
Using Google Health, patients can create personal health profiles and share them with family members and trusted health care providers through secure URLs. With the addition of prescription histories from Surescripts, patients will be able to create a record of their current and past medication use in case of emergencies.
The move is one in a series of attempts by the search engine giant to accelerate the use of electronic health records (EHRs) in the United States. In a recent op-ed for The Hill, Google executive Alfred Specter summed up the company’s patient-focused philosophy on EHRs: “By empowering consumers with the right information,” he wrote, “they can make more informed decisions and work with health care providers to more effectively manage their health.”
For more information, visit www. google.com/health.
Robotic Patient Trains Pharmacy Students
The SimMan 3G is surprisingly lifelike. Just like human patients, he breathes, sweats, and vomits; gets constipated; and experiences adverse reactions. Developed by Laerdal Medical of Norway, the robotic patient is gaining popularity as a training tool to prepare pharmacy students for the increasingly clinical demands of the profession.
Pharmacists-in-training can safely practice monitoring vitals, diagnosing symptoms, and administering medications on the SimMan G3 without the risks that come with practicing on human beings.
In a video posted on its Web site, the University of Bath shows a few of its students interacting with the robot, whom they affectionately call Simon. “I feel better now,” Simon announces after a successful treatment session. The scripted exchange feels stilted, but it is still a valuable exercise in human interaction for the students.
As the focus of pharmacy care shifts to patient counseling and medication therapy management, pharmacists will need a range of clinical, technical, and interpersonal skills to be successful. Training that intelligently recreates faceto- face patient encounters may be the best way for students to develop these skills before experimenting with real patients.
New Game Plan for Diabetes Management
A decade ago, Paul Wessel marveled at his son’s ability to keep better tabs on his Nintendo Game Boy than his glucose monitor. Now, Wessel has teamed up with UK-based Bayer to develop Didget, a kid-friendly blood glucose monitor that turns the burden of diabetic testing on its head.
Designed to plug directly into a Nintendo DS or DS Lite, the handheld device comes with its own game that rewards good test results by unlocking new characters, special items, and unexplored territories. Didget owners can also log in online to create custom profiles and interact with other players. Unlike earlier models, which required manual entry, glucose test results are uploaded automatically as soon as the monitor is plugged in.
The FDA recently cleared the device for US markets, and Bayer has plans to begin marketing Didget to US-based customers in the coming months. If successful, the novel monitoring system could help children with diabetes develop strategies for lifelong management of the condition.
For more information, visit www. bayerdidget.com/coming-soon.
Progress for Personalized Medicine
Recent acquisitions by pharmacy benefit managers Medco Health and CVS Caremark could make genetic testing for prescription drugs more common, according to a report by Emily Singer of the MIT Technology Review.
Both companies have established partnerships with startup organizations at the forefront of personalized medicine. Medco now owns DNA Direct, a small company whose expertise Medco will use to incorporate an additional 1000 to 2000 pharmacogenomics tests into its offerings for patients. CVS Caremark has increased its ownership of Generational Health, which describes itself as a “genetic testing benefit manager” focused on helping payers manage the costs of genetic testing.
These developments preceded a more recent announcement by the FDA that it will increase its commitment to the emerging field of personalized medicine, which it has been reluctant to recognize in the past.
In a speech to the Personalized Medicine Coalition, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg promised collaboration, transparency, and openness on behalf of the agency in developing regulatory measures for personalized medicine products. “There are many challenges before us,” said Hamburg, “but I believe that a future that provides safer and more effective therapies for all of us is well worth the effort.” â–