What the crystal ball holds: Experts give their take


Q Will there be a pharmacy shortage 25 years from now? How will the role of the pharmacist change?

Q Will there be a pharmacy shortage 25 years from now? How will the role of the pharmacist change?

Fong: Consumers will be playing a major role in managing not only their overall costs of health coverage, but also their total health and wellness. They will continue to be time-pressed, have a thirst for knowledge, and seek trusted professionals to help guide them with solutions that are personalized for "feeling better, feeling good, and living longer."

How do we translate the changing and more health-conscious consumer into a true opportunity for the pharmacist? Does pharmacy become more of a destination for information, products, and services?

Over the next 25 years, the role and responsibility of the pharmacist will be defined beyond the current licensed area of the pharmacy. The evolving and continued pharmacist's attributes of being accessible, available, trusted, and having a stronger holistic-based knowledge will be leveraged toward playing a key role in the total health of consumers and what they purchase that is not what is just "on prescription." While pharmacy will continue to own the distribution and dispensing component of medications, the expanded role and offering by pharmacy will include more preventive screening services, ongoing communication promotions on key health subjects, limited-condition prescribing abilities for pharmacists, immunizations, and targeted/personalized consultation for the consumer.

As pharmacy steps up and takes a more active role for consumer health care, there will need to be a significant change in the business of pharmacy. Employers, government, and private third-party payers will need to reevaluate the healthcare delivery system roles and responsibilities of their healthcare providers and implement a new payment methodology for the expanded and primary role of the pharmacists in the whole healthcare cost budget and ensure proper reimbursement for these services. While reimbursement will still be provided for the dispensing of medications, the primary reimbursement of pharmacy will be associated with health services and programs.

If this vision of pharmacy materializes, there's definitely going to be a demand for pharmacists.

Burgess: This whole idea of specialty pharmacists is what really is going to impact this dynamic. As we gain drugs that are more and more sophisticated, I see the community pharmacist in many cases really becoming a part of triage. There's likely to be more pharmacists with expertise on different levels. That's why I don't think there's going to be a shortage of pharmacists. Pharmacists are going to be involved in total patient care, and they are going to be utilized to help people understand how to use their medicines.

Inguanti: It's all about roles and responsibilities and how you define them. Those responsibilities are already expanding and appropriately so. That's a logical extension of the advanced training and all of the clinical expertise pharmacists now possess. This helps them to assume more responsibility. This also extends to the technicians, who are better trained. It's a matter of expanding those roles and responsibilities to be a provider of healthcare services.

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