Why pharmacy must embrace technology

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New technologies offer a lot to the emerging generation of young pharmacists, writes Shefali Parekh

We are well and truly in the digital age, and technology has a lot to offer the profession.

Technological advances mean pharmacists can utilise electronic resources efficiently particularly in hospitals where electronic prescribing and medicines charts are installed.

This marriage of pharmacy and new technology frees up pharmacists to do the more impactful aspects of their job. It also helps speed the approval process, thus aiding in reducing abandoned prescriptions.

Communication technology also has its role. I think professional bodies are doing good work to highlight the role of Early Career Pharmacists (ECPs), for example through the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia ECP Facebook page. This is a positive outreach engagement initiative to give the industry a platform to network and discuss contemporary issues.

However, on the flipside, the older generation of pharmacists tend to show negative attitudes towards the profession, in particular the community pharmacy sector, on social media. I believe this reflects the lack of faith among students about job satisfaction in the future.

The element of embracing change in pharmacy is significant. It is refreshing then, that ECPs are the generation of change and growth.

We cannot tolerate being stuck in one place for too long because we get bored easily. So the ability to adapt and be flexible is important. This is where technology is helpful, because technology is malleable and dynamic.

The role of technology in pharmacy is not likely to lose relevance in the coming years, especially with the introduction of dispensing robots.

Currently in Australia, dispensing robots offer control over the placement and picking of stock. This creates value for pharmacists by creating time and space to deliver human-to-human interactions, leading to better outcomes.

In the future we could see patients being greeted by robots and computers taking medication histories. Nevertheless, verbal counselling is always going to be one of the most important aspects of a pharmacist’s job to ensure quality use of medicines.

So, as efficient as technology is and can be, it’s not always effective if it’s going to allow a pharmacist to do less with their time at the expense of pharmacist-patient interaction.

General Manager at pharmacy.com.au, Aaron D’Souza, says, “with the right patient focussed services—appropriately promoted, scrutinised and delivered—patients and their pharmacists have much to gain via the proper and realistic adoption of technology.”

The reality is that the continued implementation of technology within pharmacy will see disruption in the economy and repetitive, transactional jobs will suffer.

Therefore, without appropriate technology leadership from management, pharmacy service companies and organisations, the profession will be weakened.

A shift in our profession has seen pharmacists now would much rather vaccinate and perform interventions than just filling scripts.

So looking forward to the future, I think there is a lot for students to be excited,about because the opportunities technology can open to pharmacists are great.

Shefali Parekh is the immediate past president of the National Australian Pharmacy Students’ Association.

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