When you are involved in clinical work in pharmacy, it is necessary to have a portable platform.
This would be represented by an iPad or any Android notepad, even a smartphone.
If you wanted something that could easily slip into a coat pocket, then the iPad mini is designed just for you, or you could substitute for a smartphone.
Of course these devices need to be Wi-Fi enabled to access the Internet, but if you are working from an external location (patient home) you may need a separate device to connect you to the Internet. Some notepads have the mobile Internet as an inclusion.
I have recently purchased a Samsung Galaxy Notepad, but found I had to add a keyboard built into a carrying case for the device, mainly because I do not have the dexterity with my fingers that I used to have.
The notepad does have a screen keyboard that would suit younger and more experienced operators, but even with a keyboard the unit is light and slimline and quite comfortable to use.
But having portability is only part of the solution, because the most important component of a clinical system is the management software.
I am not aware of any software designed specifically for clinical pharmacists, but there is other software that can be adapted.
One of the best software products that I have found is Evernote.
For knowledge management, Evernote has a “clipping” function where you can select part, or all, of a web page. The clipper will also clip a full pdf file, a screen shot or a bookmark and will store these items in a folder called a “notebook”.
The notebook is fully searchable through the Evernote search engine, or you can scroll through each clipping because it displays enough text and photographs for you to easily identify each item.
In a separate part of the program you are able to set up a range of folders that you are able to specifically label and store other files.
For example, I have a range of templates such as HMR and Medscheck that I can retrieve and begin to enter data into. Also a prescription and a medication chart template, as well as service agreement templates and non-disclosure agreement templates.
I also have folders for each patient.
The security and privacy strength of Evernote enables it to store patient information in a cloud location, which means that the pharmacist can access any patient data from whatever work environment is being occupied.
Special databases such as the drug-drug interactions checker located at drugs.com are accessed directly from a bookmark clip and that particular program will allow a patient’s results to be combined with other databases (drug-nutrient and drug-condition interactions) with the results being able to be left on that site or copied and pasted to your Evernote patient file.
Because you can retain your patient screens on the drugs.com website, it means that you can handle changes quickly as the patient’s drug list is changed by their doctor.
I also keep copies of patient instructions e.g. asthma inhaler techniques, in separate folders so that I can print them out.
PDF documents, even those prepared by others, can be edited and graphics can be annotated and this personalises and makes more useful, any patient information or other report that you may assemble.
Another very neat feature of Evernote is that you can synchronise your program and file access over all your PC’s, laptops, notepads and any other mobile smartphone device that is used by you or others.
Confidentiality is maintained through the use of a password that should be periodically changed.
This means you can safely install the program in any third-party computer e.g. a workstation in any pharmacy you liaise with, mainly because it will be connected to a printer to enable printing to occur.
Alternatively, you can print directly from Evernote if you are able to connect to a Wi-Fi printer wherever you are located.
The system comes equipped with a word processor for creating letters or patient notes.
I sometimes couple this function through to Google Docs if I require spreadsheets, or slideshow presentations and save them back to Evernote.
Depending on the age of a document within Evernote I may archive it separately on Google Docs to ensure Evernote is kept light in weight.
Another feature within Evernote is its chat function.
This is a useful tool for when you might wish to communicate with another person within a pharmacy from a remote location within that pharmacy (consulting room or other space).
Once installed, you can privately communicate say, to someone in the dispensary to provide some patient dispensing details without having to leave your own work station or leave the patient in temporary isolation.
You can share anything stored within the system with any other person with their own registered copy of Evernote or through email within the Evernote system or via social media. Thus sharing with GP’s can be very simple if you can persuade them to install their own version of Evernote.
There is also a reminder list system to keep you organised and some recent add-ons that include the ability to record handwriting electronically through an e-pen and convert it to editable text.
Also, you can upload audio files for storage, and you can play the same files through the device you are using (notepad, smartphone etc.)
The Evernote system is one of the most powerful systems I have every used for the storing and editing of documents and being able to convert to other formats by using systems such as Google Docs.
For the generation of HMR reports (for which the system was originally designed) you can extend its usefulness by coupling with any other website through the Evernote bookmarking system.
The tool I use more than anything else is the web clipper which enables me to research a topic, clip the relevant components (rather than an entire document), and then give it a reference name for ease of future access by search engine.
This type of system allows you to collaborate in an unobtrusive fashion with other pharmacists (within a dispensary) or a GP (located remotely) or any other person within any other environment.
You are more likely to get a faster response through this system than through any other channel provided all people within your network have basic training, and are left with a modest operations manual to refer to.
Even without a manual the software is extremely easy to work out.
The basic program is free of charge, but I found it so useful that I upgraded to their “premium” version.
This costs $56.99 per annum, but I find that it definitely gives value for money.
Anyone who can invent a similar system dedicated for pharmacy clinical services activity would certainly be on a winner.
The combination of a Notepad with Evernote fills a big gap in clinical communications.
Pharmacists who may have been hesitant in moving forward into a clinical role can now achieve that objective simply, rapidly and profitably.