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phactMI: Delivering accurate drug information to point of care, part II

Posted on March 31st, 2021 by in Medical Information

Part 2: The challenges that can restrict access to the latest and most accurate information on medications

Healthcare professionals are the ones tasked with safely prescribing, dispensing and managing medications. As mentioned in part 1 of this series, that puts them in the position of needing to know — or being able to quickly check — the latest information about a huge number of new and existing medical products.

A layperson might imagine that it is simply a case of performing a few straightforward searches for the medical product label online. In reality, some of the essential insights may not be found in the product label. An exhaustive search of the available literature would be the only way to answer all possible questions.

Here, we will look at some of the barriers that healthcare professionals encounter when attempting to access the most current and accurate medical information.

As noted previously, pharmaceutical manufacturers have a customer-facing capability whose primary purpose is to support the safe and effective use of company products by providing timely, scientifically balanced, evidence-based information. These medical information teams serve an important role within medical affairs. They are composed of healthcare professionals, including pharmacists, nurses and doctors, and they are an incredible resource.

However, awareness is an issue. As explained in the previous post, 40% of healthcare professionals are not aware that pharmaceutical manufacturers have such dedicated departments that would provide answers about medication, including information not found in the readily available prescribing information. Healthcare professionals need to know that they can ask, and then they need to know who to ask.

Some pharmaceutical companies offer self-service websites with search engines for the medical information curated by those teams. However, these can vary widely from company to company. For example, the words entered into the search may not mean the same thing to every search engine. Some may understand that a person entering “analgesic” could be interested in documents that are not tagged (or indexed) with “analgesic” but are tagged with “NSAID” or “paracetamol” – but others may not understand or use synonyms or related terms in their application. This gets even more complicated when we consider brand and generic names for medications. Will the search engine understand that when you enter “gabapentin,” you’re also interested in “Neurontin” and “Neurostil”? Unfortunately, this difference in functionality is not always clear to the healthcare professional requesting the information.

Another issue are time constraints. They’re a familiar enemy to most of us, but when you’re dealing with patients, they take on a particular edge. At the point-of-care, quick and accurate decisions are expected — and essential. It’s one thing if a treatment regime can be planned in advance of seeing a patient. It’s quite another if they’re waiting for help in the ER, general practitioner’s office or pharmacy. Taking the time to use multiple pharmaceutical company search engines and possibly the literature is a luxury — never mind the idea of waiting for responses from more than one pharmaceutical manufacturer’s medical information team and then determining the best course of action.

Finally, there is the issue of information quality: if the search is performed using a source that is not complete or up to date, the results may be misleading. New information emerges about existing and new medical products all the time. High-quality resources must be well curated, current, evidence-based, comprehensive, and provide information in a structured and contextualized manner.

This is the goal of the Pharma Collaboration for Transparent Medical Information™ (phactMI), a 501(c)(6) that seeks to improve the lives of patients through the safe and effective use of medicines.

phactMI.org currently enables searches of over 3,000 prescribing information product labels and associated medical information responses in a consolidated resource that is curated to be up to date and easy to search.

In the next post, we will look in more detail as well as what phactMI provides to the healthcare community.

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