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Digitization prevents dangerous drug effects

June 28, 2021 | Manuel Klötzer
A man is sick, sitting on a sofa and checking information about his medication on a smartphone

In Germany alone, several million people are at risk of suffering or even dying from side effects, drug interactions or other adverse drug reactions. These serious consequences can often be avoided if important information about patients, their illnesses and, above all, their medicines is reliably available and can thus be incorporated into treatment.

Around 2.8 million hospital patients in Germany took five or more medications on the day of their hospital admission in 2017, according to the "Barmer Arzneimittel-Report 2020" [1]. The more medications taken, the more likely it is that one or more of them will lead to dangerous drug effects.

The flow of information is crucial

To avoid this, the flow of information between all parties involved - for example, doctors' offices, hospitals, pharmacies and, last but not least, the patient himself  - is a decisive factor. This enables a doctor to prescribe a different medication if the intended medication would cause dangerous interactions or pose a risk because of the patient's pre-existing conditions.

Digital solutions make a decisive contribution to maintaining an overview here. One of the central tools is the electronic medication plan: The practice or clinic where a patient is treated can retrieve this plan directly from the electronic health card, update it, and store it there again. Since the beginning of 2021, statutory health insurers in Germany have also been covering the costs of an electronic health record containing this and other life-saving data. With the card in the wallet or the app on the smartphone, this information is quickly accessible for the patient himself as well as for all medical practitioners: The practice or clinic where a patient is treated can retrieve this plan directly from the electronic health card, update it, and store it there again. Since the beginning of 2021, statutory health insurers in Germany have also been covering the costs of an electronic health record containing this and other life-saving data. With the card in the wallet or the app on the smartphone, this information is quickly accessible for the patient himself as well as for all medical practitioners.

Software alerts doctors to incompatibilities

Directly integrated into the practice's physician software is the THERAFOX module. This checks a whole range of prerequisites when prescribing a medication and warns the doctor, for example, if a preparation with a similar active ingredient is already being taken, if the patient's other medications pose a problem, or if the desired medication is not suitable due to age or previous illnesses.

However, any medication only works reliably if it is taken as prescribed. This is where patient apps like mediteo can help. The free application, which recently received an award from Stiftung Warentest, reliably reminds users to take their medication at the desired or prescribed time of day and also notifies them if they need to purchase additional medication. Information such as the package insert can be called up on the smartphone at any time.

A major advantage is that all these solutions are not mutually exclusive but complement each other very well. So together they increase safety in prescribing, dispensing and taking medicines - and prevent people from suffering or dying because of a lack of information.

 

[1] Schriftenreihe zur Gesundheitsanalyse – Band 23: BARMER Arzneimittelreport 2020. Sektorenübergreifende Arzneimitteltherapie. Available online under https://www.barmer.de/presse/infothek/studien-und-reports/arzneimittelreporte

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