As discussions on how technology may affect careers in healthcare have evolved, enthusiasm over how technology can boost capabilities and improve efficiencies has been replaced in some instances with concerns over whether artificial intelligence (AI) and automation may obviate the need for certain types of healthcare workers. Which healthcare workers may be rendered less relevant due to advances in technology is debated.
Those without a deep understanding of what pharmacists know and the value they add to patient care may assume that pharmacists represent one of the roles in healthcare that could be replaced by technology. Indeed, many people view the function of pharmacists as mainly technical. It is likely, however, that technology will simply replace certain aspects of pharmacists’ jobs, while complementing others.
Here are 3 ways that technology may alter careers in pharmacy.
- It could remove menial tasks. Pharmacists have a vast knowledge of pharmacology and medicine that enables them to be tasked with not only dispensing medications but also recommending medications for patient cases. However, activities related to dispensing - like counting pills - do not require specialized knowledge. These types of tasks could be taken over by technologies as a way to support the role of the pharmacist without replacing it.
- It could aid in the identification of serious drug interactions. AI could be enormously helpful in improving our understanding of specific drug interactions and in identifying details of those interactions. Given how critical this information is to pharmacists’ jobs, AI-enabled technologies could allow pharmacists to do their jobs better and more efficiently while substantively altering the way pharmacists capture drug interaction information.
- It could free up pharmacists’ time to help people. Once able to lean more on technology for the technical aspects of their jobs, pharmacists will have more time to spend on the people-focused parts of their jobs. With more and better technology, pharmacists will be able to dedicate more time to collaborating with healthcare teams to ensure that patients are getting the best medications for their unique circumstances and preferences.
Takeaway: The demand for pharmacists is not projected to change significantly in the coming decade. However, technology and changes in the healthcare landscape are likely to change the nature of pharmacy jobs. As long as patients need medications, technology is more likely to be incorporated into the world of pharmacy to improve upon existing functions and operations rather than to render pharmacists obsolete.