Professor's digital pharmacy app aims to improve patient care, health care costs
Who they are
With an aging population driving heavy demand for medications, pharmacists find themselves having about a third of the time to counsel patients than they did 20 years ago, two minutes on average. To Purdue pharmacy Professor Matthew Murawski, the situation makes it difficult to take advantage of the considerable clinical training today's pharmacy students receive.
For one thing, pharmacists have the expertise to help patients manage side effects, making those patients more likely to use their medications properly and less likely to develop further, more costly health problems. A study published in the Journal of the American Pharmaceutical Association found the cost for managing drug-related problems exceeded $177 billion in 2000. Murawski set out to develop a system to make it easy — and fast — for pharmacists and patients to work on a solution together.
What they're doing
The result is the Pharmaceutical Therapy-Related Quality of Life (PTRQoL) tool, a digital checklist initially designed to work as an iPad app but built on a platform portable to other tablet devices and, eventually, kiosks that might become, like blood pressure machines, standard equipment in pharmacies.
Patients need answer just five questions in the interactive survey to catch 50 to 60 percent of the side effects possible with hundreds of top medications. This allows pharmacists to get a quick read of the patient’s condition and make suggestions to mitigate side effects, such as taking the medication on a different schedule, after a meal or in smaller, more frequent doses rather than all at once. The pharmacist also might work with the patient’s doctor to suggest alternative medications with less potential for side effects.
How they got there
A Lilly Endowment seed grant through the Purdue College of Pharmacy funded a study by Murawski of side effects experienced by patients taking the top 200 most-dispensed drugs in the United States, which account for 90 percent of the volume in pharmacies. Originally, he used the resulting side effect-centered database to create a paper version of his tool housed in a daunting stack of file folders. Pharmacists who tested the system reported learning more about their patients and being able to solve problems as a result. Patients liked the system, too. But it was cumbersome to use in the normal workflow of a pharmacy.
Murawski hit on the idea of taking the tool digital and approached Mark Sharp, director of the College of Pharmacy’s Hook Telecommunications Center, which developed the digital version. The iPad app is a convenient way to put the digital version in the hands of pharmacists for pilot testing, and also to wirelessly collect data that can be used to further improve the system.
When he realized the commercial potential, Murawski disclosed the innovation to the Purdue Research Foundation and its Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC). Disclosure is a requirement for commercializing intellectual property developed at the University, but it also serves to protect Purdue’s and the researchers’ rights to benefit from innovations. Matt McFarland, associate director of commercialization in the OTC, himself a trained pharmacist, helped Murawski file a provisional patent, securing the tool in preparation for discussions with potential commercial partners.
"Follow your weird," Murawski says. "Your weird is the thing that sets you on fire, that you can work on for 10 hours and look up and not even realize any time has passed. You’ve got to trust that and you’ve got to follow it."