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Pharmacies Go Mobile: A Q&A with mscripts’ Sanjeev Gautam

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We recently had a chance to sit down with Sanjeev Gautam, the vice president of engineering at mscripts, a customer of ours that builds mobile pharmacy apps that drive digital patient engagement and adherence through an innovative, easy-to-use mobile and web health management platform. They’ve had great success designing solutions that leverage mobile technology to improve healthcare delivery. Here’s what Sanjeev had to say:

Appcelerator: Where did the idea for mscripts come from?

Gautam: Mark Cullen founded mscripts five years ago when he recognized the need for more digital touch points in the pharmacy and drug industry. (Even today, many pharmacies in the U.S. still depend primarily on voice-based communication.) As Mark looked into building mobile pharmacy technology, he realized that there were two key roadblocks: regulatory compliance and integrating with the back office systems. Tackling both was no easy task – it took several years to build out the architecture in a secure, HIPAA-compliant manner. But he saw that there was a real hunger for new ways to engage with patients and mobile was the obvious answer to that need.

Appcelerator: What kinds of companies turn to you for solutions, and where are they within their mobile journeys?

Gautam: Because of all the compliance and regulatory hurdles companies in the healthcare space have to overcome, they tend to be behind the curve when it comes to mobile adoption. Retail pharmacies have a unique interest in reaching their customers and providing a patient engagement platform, and that’s what we do. We’re also working with hospitals’ in-house pharmacies – a big area for growth – because they have access to a lot of content and patient information that can be used to improve the health delivery experience. For some of our smaller customers, we make having a sophisticated mobile platform possible. For others, we partner with their technology departments to build out new services. We provide a combination of mobile, health care, and system integration experience which is unusual. We provide that core competence and work very closely with our customers to innovate around their needs.

Appcelerator: What are the major stumbling blocks for these types of companies as they try to go mobile?

Gautam: Many of them have been able to build some type of mobile app, but they quickly realize that they need more interaction and higher quality content in order to make the apps useful. Other companies are retail-focused, but have pharmacies in some of their locations. They may have lots of practice building customer experiences for retail, but pharmacy is a whole other beast, and a customer’s expectations as a pharmacy patient are often quite different than his or her expectations as a retail customer. On top of that, they’re often dealing with complex underlying systems and an overwhelming number of data connections that need to be made. mscripts’ expertise is in new technologies, patient engagement and great user interface to help all kinds of pharmacies improve patient interactions.

Appcelerator: It certainly seems that the challenges are plentiful. On the other hand, what opportunities does mobile present for pharmacies?

Gautam: Smart mobile apps give pharmacies a convenient tool to engage their patients via a direct and personal channel. For example, patients can submit refills and know exactly when to pick them up. We also offer medication reminders, notifying people when it’s time to take certain drugs. This improves adherence, and especially with chronic illnesses, that can be a big deal. Beyond that, we enable family members or caretakers to be part of the process and help manage care for their loved ones via mobile devices, even when they are in different places. So there’s also a real human angle to mscripts’ services.

Appcelerator: As a channel, where does mobile fit in the hierarchy of ways to engage a patient?

Gautam: We definitely see mobile as the primary channel to engage with patients, because our smartphones are often the last thing we look at each night and the first thing we look at each morning. Medication is very personal, too. So it makes sense to connect the personal nature of your mobile device to that of monitoring and providing for your health.

Appcelerator: How can mobile apps help with adherence to medication regimens?

Gautam: Pharmacies and other healthcare organizations have a strong interest in adherence. It can be one of the biggest stumbling blocks to helping people get and stay well. But it’s complex, because there’s a human side and a financial side to adherence.

Let’s say you have a population that is suffering from diabetes. They’re on a drug regimen, and pharmacies want to make sure they’re taking drugs correctly. If they aren’t, you need to find out why. Are they not refilling on time? Do they simply need reminders? Is cost a factor?

Mobile apps can be a big help in monitoring patient behavior. Analytics, both proactive and reactive, can help healthcare providers figure out why people are falling off. In some cases, healthcare providers can then reach out and follow up with patients to offer help. They can find out if patients aren’t taking their medications because of financial reasons, or because they don’t know how to take those meds. Additionally, at a micro level we can apply predictive algorithms and observe populations who have been in compliance to better understand what factors contribute to adherence and how to address it more effectively.

Appcelerator: What’s your vision for the future of mobile healthcare?

Gautam: Right now, we’re paying a lot of attention to solving the important problem of non-adherence and to the pharmacy experience. But it’s a natural extension of our plan to connect our mobile platform to payers and providers. Connecting pharmacy data and doctors’ data would be a big step forward, and one that would help patients tremendously. Testing labs are another area that could benefit from being looped into the data feedback circuit.

Lastly, a lot of consumer-facing devices and apps are coming out now that measure fitness. These apps can be very powerful when connected to data around medication, prescriptions, and actions that patients take in the healthcare system. Better understanding how these pieces fit together can help us figure out what ultimately makes and keeps a person healthy. We think there’s a lot of interesting stuff going on with connected devices (like smartwatches and connected appliances), and there will be a huge opportunity to connect them to the healthcare process via reminders and other real-time feedback.

The bottom line is mobile technology can and is being used to convert raw data into knowledge that helps all types of healthcare providers — and consumers — make important health decisions.

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