Predicting which pharmacy jobs will still be around in five or fifteen years isn’t easy because the future is not what it used to be. The accelerating pace of change in the healthcare industry would have been difficult to imagine even a decade ago.
From mergers and acquisitions potentially reshaping pharmacy concepts, to expanded prescribing possibilities and the increasing presence of telepharmacy, some jobs may indeed disappear, while others evolve or prompt pharmacists to seek further training.
Lowell Anderson, DSc, FAPhA, adjunct professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Care and Health Systems, University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy, sees a continuing movement away from dispensing prescriptions as the centerpiece of the practice of pharmacy.
“Existing technologies such as central-fill and robotics will replace the active involvement of the pharmacist with each prescription,” says Anderson. “There will be an increasing use of technicians to be responsible for the dispensing and inventory functions—this includes checking the final product. We may see the concept of the assistant pharmacist reappear—phased out in the 1950s—as exists in many European countries.”
Many pharmacists will be challenged to redefine their careers in the absence of traditional dispensing responsibilities. “That means determining and augmenting one’s particular skills and identifying a customer for those skills,” says Anderson.
Healthcare Team Members
One role that is projected to increase is for pharmacists to become members of a healthcare team. For years, pharmacists have been employed to increase the efficiency of healthcare in hospital settings, and similar care models are being developed that may use pharmacists to coordinate medication in other care environments.
“At the moment, community pharmacists may not be practicing at the top of their profession,” says Joseph B. Guglielmo, PharmD and dean of the UC San Francisco School of Pharmacy. “They may be able to counsel a patient on the prescription they’re dispensing, but that’s not filling the real gap in health care. No one reviews all the medication you’re on, whether you’re taking the wrong hypertensive drug or whether the herbal supplement you’re taking interacts with your cholesterol medication or your antidepressant.”
By managing medication use, as part of a team, pharmacists can help increase safety, efficiency, and cost. Pharmacists are well-positioned to identify gaps in medication adherence and are knowledgeable about cost-effective medication solutions.
One development that is making it easier for pharmacists to participate in healthcare teams is networks of community pharmacies that provide enhanced clinical services, like CPESN, which coordinates patient care with broader care teams. Networks have formed in 32 states, and are inviting independent pharmacists to offer pharmacy services as part of a team.
“That’s a change that’s a great opportunity for pharmacists to get involved with patients,” says Angela Dominelli, MBA, PhD, adjunct professor of pharmacy administration at Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. “If a graduate pharmacy student wants to do something different and wants to really engage with patients, they could take a cue from IT professionals. A lot of IT people provide services full time or on a part-time basis, working for several places and crafting a whole full-time career from this. New graduates coming out can get to use their critical skill sets to help with CPESN services, one or two days a week, and can go to multiple stores and create a full-time opportunity for themselves.”
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