Over the last few decades, pharmacists have come to rely increasingly on technology to perform tasks both repetitive and highly complex. Information technology in general has had an enormous impact on nearly every business and the millions of people who work for them. Computer technology has been embraced so heavily because of the many benefits automation brings: routine and repetitive tasks can be performed faster and with a greater degree of accuracy. As the trend towards automation continues and accelerates, what impact will this evolving technology have on the future of pharmacy?
What automation is doing now and benefits for the future
For pharmacies, workplace automation is embodied by sophisticated robotic dispensing equipment. These advanced machines automate the handling of medications, from point of order entry to the final delivery of a prescription. By automating the entire fulfillment process, pharmacies are able to very quickly dispense the proper medicine to the correct patient, with a much higher rate of accuracy. This safeguards the patient from human error, in addition to allowing the pharmacy to provide better customer service more efficiently. Information Technology is also being leveraged to digitize, deliver, and store structured patient records, facilitating better collaboration between different caregiving entities all working on behalf of the patient to provide a better continuum of care.
Improved access to electronic health record (EHR) systems in the future will enable pharmacists to provide more patient-centered services. Summary care records, have already impacted hospital pharmacists in the area of medicine reconciliation. It will become easier in the future for community pharmacies to increase access to national and local patient record services.
Robotic dispensing and the impact on the future
IT workflow systems and electronic health records are increasingly being integrated into robotic dispensing equipment to provide a seamless operation. And while advanced robots have been used in a variety of industries for many years, it’s only been relatively recently that automated systems have become essential for pharmacies. In the modern pharmacy, robotic systems leverage barcode reading technology to facilitate prescription fulfillment, and automate the pill storage, counting, and dispensing process. Automating this process allows the pharmacist to concentrate on providing more essential healthcare services to the patient. The pharmacist can now spend the time that was previously taken up by having to perform a repetitive and monotonous task on consulting and educating patients regarding their drug regimen.
The impact that robotic automation has on the pharmacy will only increase in the future.
As automated equipment becomes “smarter” and more efficient, pharmacies and the professionals who work for them will continue to shift their focus to providing a more holistic approach to healthcare. Patients will increasingly rely on these facilities to provide collaborative services that will see pharmacists playing an essential role as one of the primary caregivers on a team of healthcare professionals.