In a recent interview with eHealthNews, Clinical Director of A-Z of Medicines, Leesette Turner, discussed the importance of safe medicines prescribing and the development of their new eHealth solution.

After working as a qualified pharmacist in most aspects of the pharmaceutical industry – from the mining sector to running the UCT Medicines Information Centre –Turner understood the importance of promoting safe medicine prescribing and use. This formed the basis for establishing A-Z of Medicines, a comprehensive database for the safe delivery of medical prescribing.

“Over the last 15 years we built the database through manual capturing and saw it as our duty to move a medicines information offer into the 21st century,” said Turner.

A-Z of Medicines provides integrated, individualised medicines information solutions from a fully normalised database. They are currently developing their eHealth platform to expand their offering to healthcare professionals across the continuum of care.  Access to this platform will be via API, mobi, web or an ebook. “We’re currently working on developing the front-end of the solution and aim to launch it in 2015,” said Turner. There are plans to offer freemium and premium versions of the solution and it is envisioned to be an “interactive package that offers various data subsets to allow the user to enter a basket of drugs and the system will return a composite answer about medicines in the basket – collective interactions, side effects, warnings and precautions etc.”

A-Z of Medicines is developing their eHealth solution with consumers, healthcare professionals and community healthcare workers in mind. “The Millennium Development Goals have highlighted the need to make use of more community healthcare workers and teach them important skills, so it’s a top priority for us to cater for them, especially when it’s becoming common practice for them to be using a mobile phone when working offsite” said Turner.

According to Turner, individuals will be able to use the solution to see if there are any adverse reactions to medications based on their specific circumstances, for example, if the patient is pregnant, breast feeding, partakes in professional sport, etc. “Through a drop-down menu the user will be able to enter the medicine(s) and then obtain an overview of relevant information,” said Turner.

Thanks to sophistication within the design, the A-Z of Medicines database will allow the user to easily obtain information on what they require. “We want to make the data available in the most useful format, which is also why we’re developing the solution in different languages – primarily English, French and Xhosa,” said Turner.

A-Z of Medicines’ solution will also assist in Polypharmacy by allowing pharmacists to check for duplications, both frank and therapeutic, and to see what’s clinically relevant for the patient. “When elderly patients take more than three different types of prescriptions then problems can arise; and this is exacerbated by renal or kidney problems in this group of patients,” said Turner. Turner believes ePrescribing is the key to improving medicines management and patient safety, especially with the shortage of pharmacists and healthcare workers in the country. “I’m excited about ePrescribing because prospective medicines review makes huge strides for medicine management, and ultimately patient care.  The electronic solutions don’t detract from professional knowledge; they simply complement and support their knowledge base.

Turner added that their eHealth solution will act as a “safety backstop” to ePrescribing, in that busy professionals can glance at the A-Z of Medicines database through the solution and make an informed decision about the prescription. “If pharmacists use eHealth systems to help patients – whether to look at fatal medicine interactions or remove duplicates – it will really make a positive difference in healthcare delivery,” concluded Turner.

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