Looking ahead, technologies will continue to transform the pharmacy industry in positive ways.
Fisher expects pharmacy dispensing to become more automated in the next decade. With electronic prescribing becoming the norm, pharmacists will no longer need to manually interpret prescription data or enter it. “As dispensing machines and systems become smarter, the whole process will be mostly automated with minimal clinical oversite,” she says.
This will force pharmacists to evolve. They will need to embrace their place in clinical roles, such as medication therapy management programs, patient education, or health information technology. “Pharmacists can make a huge impact on drug costs and patient education, which impacts overall compliance and healthcare outcomes,” Fisher says. As technology evolves, programs will accurately target the most needy and costly patients.
On another front, Benjamin M. Bluml, RPh, senior vice president, Research and Innovation, American Pharmacists Association Foundation, which is focused on patient-centered, team-based care, has predicted that through new technology innovations medications will be customized to an individual patient’s genome, health status, and point-of-care needs via 3D printing. This may even include all-in-one pills for some patients.
The supporting technologies for this revolution are already in place. Hard work from clinicians on data aggregation and standards that support individualized care is ongoing through the Clinical Pharmacogenetics Implementation Consortium (CPIC), Bluml says. Technology companies are also working on innovations that will increase the variety of medications available for 3D printing. “The challenges for moving this innovation to scale are significant, but the combination of human and artificial intelligence at the point-of-care will undoubtedly contribute to its eventual reality,” he says.
Finally, with many grocery stores containing pharmacies and with a focus toward lifestyle management for chronic disease conditions, a new technology that could emerge in the next decade is linking an individual’s shopping habits to their prescriptions. “By using store loyalty cards, consumer shopping habits can be captured, which can be connected to their prescriptions for point-of-buying suggestions,” says Unni. For example, if a patient has a prescription for cholesterol-lowering medicines and is buying red meat, the technology (in the form of a mobile app) could inform the individual about red meat’s fat and calorie content and could make recommendations about the appropriate use of that food, even including healthy recipes.