Pocket Pharmacists and Other Fantastic Technologies

Jan 02, 2018

smartphone-1894723_1280Have you ever popped the lid off your pill bottle only to find there’s just one dose left? If you have you probably made a mental note to call in a refill. Then you forgot. Now you’re staring at an empty bottle and you notice it was the last refill. The pharmacist won’t bridge you anymore so before you can get your hands on another pill you have to get to the doctor for a new script. 

If this scene rings a bell well, there’s an app for that. The arrival of artificial intelligence (AI) is soon to make this scenario a thing of the past. Billed as a medicine cabinet in your pocket, DrugHub is more like a pharmacist in your pocket who prompts before you run out and warns you that a steady diet of ibuprofen might be harmful.

Tech Innovation in Health and Wellness

DrugHub and others like it are just a few among the veritable explosion of medical and health analytic and information technologies. They capitalize on our growing desire to track and manage anything that can be measured and quantified about our health. Of course, assessing risk for disease is nothing new. Most of us intuitively know our risk for a heart attack goes down if we would just get off the sofa. But what is new is the highly targeted nature of these appraisals called Health Risk Assessment tools.

Personalization is the new buzzword here. Some developers even boldly claim the future can soon be seen with near perfect risk prediction of disease. Using a combination of analytics, learning algorithms, and interactive questionnaires, these programs can evaluate your current health and then go on to identify and assess very focused and very personal potential health risks. The power to draw a straight line between a sedentary life and a heart attack brings new meaning to the generic, “How are you?”

But say you’re on the downslope of that inactive life and now need to see a doctor, except you and your sofa are in a remote and underserviced area. Or, maybe you live in the city and simply can’t find a doctor. No problem. Telemedicine is a growing option that comprises a variety of tools from face to face video conferencing to home health monitoring with automatic upload of equipment readings. Telemedicine goes even further in rural Saskatchewan where robots facilitate remote diagnostic procedures like ear exams or even ultrasounds. Such innovations save vast amounts of money and offer patients better care.

Fintech in Group Benefits

On the financial side of the benefits plan, we now have Ella, Sun Life’s next generation Digital Benefits Assistant, originally launched in 2016. The chief innovation here is that, again through big data and learning algorithms, she not only responds in voice to your queries but anticipates them and over time, will take action.

For instance, you probably know if your daughter is turning 21 this year but what you may not know is that when that happens she’ll need her own healthcare coverage. Fortunately for you Ella does know this so she’ll alert and help you through the process saving hours of frustration over possibly lapsed coverage.  Similarly, she might prompt if you’re not taking your employer’s top up option in your retirement savings account. Or, she’ll suggest moving any remaining balance in your health claim expense account to your retirement account.

We’ve come a long way from the days when the big tech innovation in group benefits was digital claims submission. What is now standard practice seems so….2011. Now, we just wait for the day when a DrugHub robot will teleconference with your doctor and deliver that new prescription right to your door.

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