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Pharmacist developed app to reduce drug interactions, improve HIV patient care

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Pharmacist Pierre Giguère

Pharmacist Pierre Giguère helped develop a free web and mobile app that helps health-care professionals and the public check for drug interactions.

Pharmacists and members of the public can quickly check the safety and compatibility of HIV and hepatitis C drugs with other commonly prescribed medications, thanks to a new app that Ottawa Hospital Pharmacist Pierre Giguère helped develop.

“We wanted to create a tool that was not just more user friendly, but also helped guide other pharmacists and other health-care providers in order to provide medications in a safe way,” said Giguère.

The number of medications available to HIV patients has grown tremendously over the years – and so too has the need to manage drug compatibility. Giguère, along with fellow pharmacists Alice Tseng of Toronto and Michelle Foisy of Edmonton, teamed up with a Toronto design firm to develop the HIV/HCV Drug Therapy Guide. It’s available at app.hivclinic.ca, or from Google Play or the Apple Store.

The free web and mobile app uses a powerful search engine to help health-care professionals and the public check for drug interactions between HIV or hepatitis C medications and other commonly used drug classes.

The app has already proven useful for pharmacists caring for inpatients, said Jennifer Spencer, Professional Practice Coordinator for Pharmacy.

HIV app Pierre Giguere - over the shoulder

“If I entered drug A and B into a less-powerful app and received a negative interaction, I would have to think of and enter a drug C, and maybe a drug D and E before I found a safe combination,” Spencer said. “With this app, the app itself suggests drug C, D or E for me, so I can spend less time considering options and more time seeing patients.”

The app is regularly updated with new information from product monographs, published literature and recent HIV and hepatitis conference abstracts.

“The app saves me a lot of time,” said Spencer.

Its popularity is growing. As of November 2018, the mobile and web app received more than 3,600 unique visits and provided information for 4,000 drug interactions. The app has garnered wins in the 2016-2017 Canadian Society of Hospital Pharmacists Specialties in Pharmacy Practice Award and the 2016 Canadian Society of Hospital Pharmacist Ontario Branch Innovative Information Technology Award. A 2.0 version incorporating a better user experience is expected to be released in 2019.

This app is just one example of how Giguère and other pharmacists live The Ottawa Hospital’s vision to “provide each patient with the world-class care, exceptional service and compassion we would want for our loved ones.”

Giguère also provides high-quality follow-up care, advocates for patient access to medication, liaises with other health-care professionals inside the hospital and in the community, and provides patient education, including medication counselling.

“My job is to find the optimal treatment for people with HIV, and to tailor the treatment to each person,” he said.

It’s not just the quality of the information that improves patient care, but it’s also the quality of the connection between the pharmacist and patient, said Giguère.

“I’ve seen some patients for over 20 years. People know me, and they ask to see me. I’m glad I can offer that continuity of care and that they feel comfortable to reach out to me.”

 
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