Smart Phones Get Important Role in Diabetes Management Initiative

With mobile tools becoming available to help patients better manage their chronic diseases, could the pharmacist become obsolete?

In the news: Mobile smart phones will play a key role in diabetes self-management training for patients in an underserved minority community in Dallas, Texas, under an AT&T pilot program developed with the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) and the US Department of Health and Human Services. AT&T will contribute $100,000 to the AADE to fund the program and provide approximately 150 smartphones with voice and data plans for patients, diabetes educators, and other education personnel (Healthcare IT News, AT&T press release). Meanwhile, data released at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes Congress in Lisbon showed that worldwide diabetes cases rose to 366 million, with the disease killing one person every 7 seconds (Reuters).

With all of these tools becoming available to help patients do a better job of managing their chronic diseases, could the pharmacist become obsolete as a patient’s coach or facilitator of disease management programs? Most pharmacists would say no, people want to talk to another person—but in too many pharmacies in this country it is almost an imposition to talk to the “busy” pharmacist.

My concern as I read about developments like this is that unless pharmacists begin providing cognitive services now these new developments will take place without the pharmacist. Later, when the reimbursement is available others will be there already—and there will be little room for the pharmacists.

We will lose one more opportunity to help patients use their medicine appropriately. What’s the solution? We need to learn to straddle—keep the dispensing practice going but begin getting our feet wet in providing cognitive services on a limited scale.