Community pharmacists have the infrastructure and expertise to deploy ‘Big Data’ and artificial intelligence (AI) in practice, the Pharmaceutical Group of the European Union (PGEU) has said.
The PGEU, which represents community pharmacists in 31 European countries, published a position paper on 20 February 2019. It said that as the closest and most accessible point of access to care in Europe, community pharmacists are vital to bridge the gap between patients and healthcare systems and ensure patients are well informed about how their healthcare data is used to improve the safety and quality of their treatment.
The PGEU outlined three ways that pharmacy could “leverage the Big Data and AI disruption in healthcare”: by using these new technologies to dedicate more working time to providing patient care; by adopting Big Data and AI within interoperable information systems to use patient data and clinical history to provide a more personalised healthcare service; and by using ‘eHealth’ and ‘mHealth’ (mobile health) tools to provide real-time capture of data and follow up with at-risk patients on their health conditions.
It said pharmacists already have an early form of AI in place, in the form of current pharmacy software that holds data on patient medication histories, medication use and adherence data. The next generation of AI, it said, would enable pharmacists to spend less time working on identifying serious drug-related problems and more time providing patient care.
“To maximise the benefits of Big Data and AI in healthcare it is necessary to involve community pharmacists as experienced users of digital health tools in the formulation of digital policies at local, national and European level as well as in the development of guidelines and methods on the sharing of Big Data,” said Ilaria Passarani, PGEU secretary general.
“It is also important to facilitate the production of Big Data in healthcare, ensuring interoperability and linking electronic health records with e-prescribing systems.”
The paper makes five recommendations, including enabling community pharmacists to update electronic health records; rewarding, with reimbursement, community pharmacy services; and encouraging collaboration between healthcare professionals.
“Community pharmacists should be allowed to update electronic health records, if needed, to identify and address potential medication and patient safety-related issues,” said Passarani.
“AI should be used also to enhance collaboration among health professionals serving the same patients and to promote the integration of primary care system.”