With mobile app, pharmacy logbooks to go digital by 2020
MANILA, Philippines – The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will begin implementing a policy requiring pharmacies nationwide to use a mobile application that will digitize logbooks by 2020.
Southeast Asian healthcare data startup mClinica donated the app called the electronic Drug Safety System (eDSS), which only pharmacists and the FDA will have access to. The FDA likewise completed orientation and training of its inspectors on how to use the app.
In a statement, FDA Director General Nela Charade Puno said the eDSS will generate data to create a "national pharmacy information system" that will help determine how to best allocate and distribute medicines in the Philippines.
It will also help the FDA, she said, to find counterfeit medicines and recall dangerous or ineffective medicines.
Development of the app comes over a year after the FDA and mClinica made an initial announcement that it was eyeing the use of the eDSS in pharmacies nationwide.
How it works: The pharmacist will no longer manually record prescriptions in logbooks. Instead, he or she will take a photo of the patient's prescriptions through the app, which will then digitize the information. After this, the pharmacist will fill in information fields on the eDSS.
Data generated from the information in prescriptions will also give the FDA easy access to crucial public health data that could help in crafting better programs.
In addition to this, mClinica assured the public that the app will comply with the Data Privacy Act and will not collect or store any personal health information.
What else can the app do? Where the app shows the most promise, perhaps, is in its ability to provide information that may help in fighting outbreaks and studying patterns of treatment for diseases.
But how exactly will it do this?
Take for instance an area where flu may be starting to spread. Only a few prescriptions for flu medicine may be sold for a certain period of time, but once more prescriptions are received and medicines sold, the eDSS will be able to record this change.
"Our data scientists will see an uptick in the number of flu medicines sold [in an area] and can alert the authorities that a potential flu outbreak is underway. The FDA and DOH (Department of Health) would know about the situation and could send extra flu medication and public health officials to the area to prevent [the illness from] spreading," mClinica said in an email interview with Rappler.
It can also help public health experts to better understand diseases.
For instance, pilot testing of the app in 56 pharmacies in Metro Manila in 2017 showed that most tuberculosis patients only bought 30 tablets out of the 160 to 180 tablets needed to complete their treatment. The same was observed for antibiotics, where patients only bought 1 to 6 pills out of the total 21 pills usually prescribed by doctors.
In an interview with Rappler during the initial launch of the app, mClinica chief executive officer Farouk Meralli said this would help understand the underlying causes of diseases in the country.
When will the eDSS be used? The app will be rolled out in tiers starting with Metro Manila, Cebu City, and Davao City in 2018.
Meanwhile, all FDA-registered pharmacies in cities nationwide will have the eDSS by 2020. Exceptions will be made for pharmacies in rural areas which may have limited access to the internet. – Rappler.com