Exclusive survey-PHARMACY: 2032

March 19, 2007

The next 25 years hold promise of more clinical involvement and collaboration ? and more respect for pharmacists.









Would you believe it? Automated machines, robots, and kiosks will assume most, if not all, of the prescription dispensing duties over the next 25 years. Well, that's what almost 50% of the pharmacists taking part in a new Drug Topics survey on the future of pharmacy think will happen. But wait, that's not the only dynamic change in store for pharmacy.

Oh, some old concerns, such as R.Ph. shortages and medication errors, will linger, said those who responded to the survey. But the call for pharmacists will never be stronger as they tend to the growing medication needs of aging baby boomers and stand guard over a growing supply of dramatic new drugs for diabetes, cancer, and many other conditions.

In short, with some caveats, pharmacists are destined for lively and favorable times-or at least that is the expectation and hope of many, not all, of the pharmacists who answered a Drug Topics survey on what will happen to pharmacy over the next 25 years.

Timed to coincide with the 150th anniversary of Drug Topics, the survey was designed by Advanstar Communications' corporate research department with the help of the magazine's editorial staff. Conducted on-line from Feb. 2 through Feb. 12, the survey is based on responses from 849 R.Ph.s on the Drug Topics circulation list, 52% of whom work in hospitals and 48% in independent, chain, and other settings. The respondents represent urban, suburban, and rural areas across the country; the mean duration of practice of all respondents is 22 years. More than half (56%) are male; 44% are women. They are almost equally divided between those who are under 50 and those who are 50 or older.

Technology reigns

The relentless advance of technology is one of the most important developments that loom for pharmacy. Electronic prescribing, electronic health records, and computerized physician order entry (CPOE) top a list of technological changes pharmacists think will be commonplace in the next 25 years. Other major changes they deem will be common by 2032 include bedside bar-coding, automated dispensing machines, and drug kiosks.

Technology will play a key role in the fight against medication errors, which 64.6% of all respondents believe will be a serious problem in 25 years. More than 70% of the panel think that electronic devices/ systems such as bedside bar-coding, electronic health records, e-prescribing, and CPOE will cut down the number of drug errors.

Changing role for R.Ph.s

Technology will also play a major role in drug distribution. Almost half of all respondents (47.4%) believe that automated dispensing machines, robots, and drug kiosks will take over most, if not all, of the dispensing functions in the future.

Side by side with that startling statistic is the finding that 79.9% of all respondents think that future pharmacists will spend the majority of their time doing more than just filling Rxs. Twenty-five years from now, R.Ph.s will be allowed to initiate, modify, and discontinue medications in all 50 states, according to 81.5% of the respondents, and 95% are confident R.Ph.s will be more involved than they are today in such areas as collaborative practice, vaccinations, and medication therapy management (MTM).