The pharmacy has always been on the traditional side of things. We are one of the few industries that still relies heavily on fax machines, although thankfully increasingly less so. I look forward to the day when pharmacy realises that no-one else has used a fax machine since the 1990s. Pharmacy still struggles with even the basic efficiencies.
As we progress and evolve in pharmacy, so does the technology we use. Each advance has changed the way we prepare and use medicines to provide care in our communities. However, this poses a question – when technology becomes the core of pharmacy and is doing the bulk of the work, are the pharmacists, technicians, dispensers and healthcare assistants needed anymore?
We are like the weavers being presented with a loom for the first time. We said it will never take off, that it will never supplant the skills of a pharmacy team. Now here we are, the superannuated weavers, and those that have uptaken the loom are already miles ahead.
We are facing the dreaded “Amazonisation” of pharmacy. Is the fear of redundancy warranted? I would be lying if I said no. Simple business acumen will tell you that with automation comes a lesser need for people. Upskilling is going to be the name of the game. Will those who cannot or will not upskill survive in modern pharmacy? The aim is going to be to make yourself, ironically, indispensable. But is it all bad?
If we remove the dispensing element from pharmacies, what are we? The goalposts move. No longer are we simply people hiding away behind a dispensing bench, barely talking to a single person that graces our doors. That safety guard has gone. Now it is the time we show our compassion. Our own human element, if you will. Pharmacy becomes a service-driven profession where your social skills are just as important as your clinical ones. Is it enough to simply be a good pharmacist?
Why do you work in pharmaceutical care? I have to admit, I care less about prescription numbers and more about helping the individual in front of me. The human element initially drew me to this profession. No-one comes into this profession, be it pharmacist, dispenser, or healthcare assistant, thinking “I can’t wait to check prescriptions/stick labels/put away stock all day.” No, we are there because we want to help people.
I predict this is going to be a big year for pharmacy. With quality payments rolling out around the corner we are likely to see some massive changes. Modern technology allows us to do that. It is the time to upgrade and think about what kind of profession we want to be.
Benjamin D’Montigny is a locum dispenser working in the south of England.