Where will automation and technology make the biggest impact in pharmacy?

I was planning on writing a rant this morning about lack of motivation, leadership and dumbasses – hey, I was in a fould mood when I got up – but then I opened an email from a friend. He asked me “How can retail pharmacists get involved in this [pharmacy informatics] industry?”. My first thought was to say that retail pharmacy would be the death of our profession and that they have no business getting involved in pharmacy informatics. Harsh I know, but I told you I was in a foul mood.

Then I did something I rarely do, I thought about the question a bit more before answering. After some time I came to the conclusion that retail, or more generally outpatient, pharmacy is exactly where more automation and technology is needed. I follow a few retail pharmacists on Twitter and one generalization I can make from reading their Tweets is that they all pretty much hate their jobs. Why? Because they spend precious little time working as pharmacists, instead spending most of their time physically filling prescriptions, chasing insurance claims, etc.

What retail pharmacy needs is a super-sized dose of pharmacy automation, technology and greater pharmacy technician involvement. Nowhere in pharmacy is there a greater need for automation and technology than outpatient services. Much of what’s done in the outpatient pharmacy setting does not require a pharmacist. This echoes the words by Chad Hardy last week on the RxInformatics website. Chad states “The longer we rely on pharmacists to run the entire supply chain, the higher our risk of obsolescence.” He’s absolutely right, although the article he references insinuates that pharmacists will become obsolete secondary to technology. Nay, I say. Technology in the outpatient arena can offer pharmacists the opportunity to break away from the mundane and do a little more hands on patient care. In addition, the drive to implement automation and technology in the retail setting creates the perfect job opportunity for pharmacists interested in informatics.

Of course we’ll have to prove to the retail boys upstairs that they can save money by using pharmacists in a more clinical role, but that’s what business cases are for. Unfortunately I couldn’t write a business case to save my life. In fact, a colleague of mine told me that pharmacists are terrible at creating business cases. I suppose that’s true as most of us didn’t become pharmacists to practice business. Instead we became pharmacists to provide patient care. Go figure.

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