Pharmacists should learn to write code

You know what’s missing in healthcare? Pharmacists that write code and work on application development, that’s what’s missing. It’s the only way to ensure that applications have the right look, feel and functionality. Who knows better than a pharmacist, or pharmacy technician, how a pharmacy application should behave? No one, that’s who. Trying to explain healthcare workflow to a non-healthcare person is like trying to explain calculus to a dog; not that I think people outside healthcare are dogs. It’s just a metaphor.

Anyone can learn to code the basics, much the same way anyone can learn the basics of being a pharmacist. I could teach an average sixth grader how to perform the basic functions of a pharmacist; no lie. Of course things get a lot more complicated once you get past the basics, and that’s when you need people with more experience, expertise and wisdom.

I’ve dabbled in “programming” here and there, mostly out of necessity. At one time or another I’ve taught myself to code with visual basic, C# and some scripting languages like Javascript, PERL, and HTML. I also spent a couple years learning the ins and outs of database design and writing queries. But I was never all that good at it. I could do the basics, but it was neither my profession nor passion.

I wrote a couple of small apps to help me do my job – desktop and web-based – and built some databases to handle pharmacokinetic tracking and pharmacist interventions. Everything worked, but they were nothing that would have wowed anyone. What I needed was someone with a lot more experience to take those applications and turn them into something spectacular. That’s where having a real “programmer” would come in handy; someone with years of experience, expertise and wisdom.

However, back to my original point. Healthcare needs pharmacists that know how to write code to jump start the development process and drive things forward when things stall. Sometimes pictures and words simply don’t work.

Just an opinion. Take it for what it worth.

11 thoughts on “Pharmacists should learn to write code”

  1. Agreed. I’m a recent pharmacist graduate who is learning how to program. Right now I’m in the early stages of learning Python and so far I enjoy it (I’m beginning to enjoy it more than pharmacy, ha!)

  2. Great post! I’m a pharmacist studying health informatics. I like programming, however never really learned a language to the professional level. I didn’t get a sense of what language is best for web applications and pharmacy. Any suggestions?

  3. I don’t really know what languages hold value as I’m not a programmer by trade. I understand that the ‘C’ languages are still pretty popular, as well as things like Ruby, Python and HTML5 stuff if you’re in to the web. But like I said, that’s not really my cup of tea.

  4. I exactly agree to your idea. Now I’m a pharmacist graduate in S.Korea. Here in Korean pharmacists’ society, unfortunately, N o one could see the importance of learning software programming skills which may be used for the job. (Actually, I’m not sure that How many Korean pharmacists concerns to it).

  5. Great post! Is it possible to share more details on what the pharmacokinetic tracking database project entailed? I’m interested!

  6. Hi Ian – that was a loooong time ago. I was using MS Access with Pendragon Forms on the front end. A little SQL and some visual basic to tie it all together. I don’t even know what became of it.

  7. I want to do this so much but my retail job wipes me out. I’ve not been able to get past the basics for several programming languages I played around with over the past 10 years.

  8. I am not a pharmacist, but just doing research for someone. What do you refer to as jump starting the development process and drive forward?

  9. I am not a pharmacist, but just doing research for someone. What programming language can you use for developing the process and health informatics?

  10. Basically, I mean that I’ve used a lot of really bad software as a pharmacist. It’s obvious that not every company has domain experts on staff and build things that make no sense to a pharmacist. I think a pharmacist sitting with developers and UX/UI professionals could provide a lot of valuable insight.

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