The Trends and Innovations Shaping the Future of Pharmacy Technology

Shaping the Future of Pharmacy TechnologyIf you had to make a list of some of the most invaluable positions in the entirety of the healthcare field, pharmacy technicians would undoubtedly be right at the top.

These are the hardworking professionals who partner directly with doctors, nurses, and pharmacists to fill prescriptions, track potentially life-saving inventory, repackage bulk medications, and more. They can work in hospitals, nursing homes, and even retail stores, depending on the specific organization they work for.

They also need to stay on the cutting edge of everything going on in the world of pharmacy technology to better serve patients everywhere.

Pharmacy Technology Industry: What Is It?

The pharmacy technology industry refers to the use of technology in pharmaceutical processes to enhance efficiency, accuracy, and safety, including the development and use of software and hardware systems such as electronic health records (EHRs), automated dispensing systems, pharmacy management software, and medication adherence tools. All these various technologies aim to streamline pharmacy operations, from automating medication dispensing to improving patient safety. Pharmacy technology has already proven critical in helping improve patient outcomes by reducing medication errors, and as the healthcare industry continues to adopt new technology, the pharmacy industry is expected to continue to adapt with it.

Why Is Keeping Up to Date With Pharmacy Tech So Important?

Staying abreast of everything going on with pharmacy technology is essential because the entire field is evolving so rapidly. Even as recently as a decade ago, most tasks like tracking inventory were still completed manually. Flash forward to today, and automation systems can be used to achieve better results in a far shorter amount of time – thus freeing up those like pharmacy technicians to focus on more important matters.

Staying up to date on the latest advancements not only makes someone more competitive when it comes to applying for a job, but it makes them a more valuable addition to any environment as well.

Automation Technology Used in Pharmacies

Pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens use various automation technologies to streamline their operations and enhance efficiency. The implementation of this kind of technology is only going to increase as processes are improved, so it is incumbent upon those working in pharmacies to stay up to date on the latest pharmacy tech. Some common automation technologies used in pharmacies include:

  • Prescription dispensing systems: These systems automate the process of dispensing medications. They’re able to count pills, label medications, and even package them, reducing errors and improving accuracy.
  • Robotics and robotic dispensing systems: Robotic systems can work alongside pharmacists and technicians to handle repetitive tasks like sorting, counting, and packaging medications. They are also capable of managing and retrieving medications from storage, optimizing space utilization and improving inventory management to ensure the pharmacy has the right medications readily available.
  • Electronic health records (EHR) and pharmacy management systems: HER systems automate administrative tasks, such as managing patient records, prescription orders, inventory tracking, and billing. They streamline workflows and improve communication between healthcare providers, pharmacies, and insurance companies.

The improved efficiency and accuracy, enhanced patient safety, and increased ability for pharmacies to adhere to industry regulations make the value of automated systems self-evident. Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians interested in providing high quality care would therefore do well to stay abreast of the latest advancements in automation technology.

What Is Pharmacy Automation Technology?

In this context, automation refers to the technology used to perform any task that was formerly completed manually. In a larger healthcare environment, examples of this could be adding a patient to a list or checking them in and out of a scheduled appointment.

What Are the Benefits?

By far, the biggest benefit of pharmacy automation technology has to do with how it helps organizations reduce costs across the board. Even something as seemingly straightforward as the automated dispensing of medication can have a major positive ripple effect. For starters, the system itself guarantees accurate inventory management so that organizational leaders always know exactly what is on hand at any given moment. This means certain medications can be automatically re-ordered as needed.

Likewise, patients get more accurate and timely service, and pharmacy technicians are free to focus their attention elsewhere, creating a more efficient work environment while also improving patient care.

Pharmacy Automation in the Real World

A prime example of pharmacy automation in the real world takes the form of the self-serve pharmacy. Patients can order over-the-counter medications online and pick them up at a physical location convenient to them – all without requiring technician intervention. Prescriptions can be filled using little more than a QR code, allowing a machine to instantly dispense the right medication to the right person.

As previously discussed, those interested in working in a pharmacy can expect to interact with automation technologies daily. You will likely seek employment at companies like Walgreens or CVS that are dedicated to pharmacy services or even the pharmacy of your local grocery store. While the automation processes outlined above remove much of the opportunity for human error, the intervention of a skilled and knowledgeable pharmacy professional is still necessary to ensure everything runs smoothly – not to mention the many processes that cannot be automated and require a human touch.

What Are Electronic Prescriptions?

Another innovation making waves across the pharmacy technology industry is electronic prescriptions. Also commonly referred to as e-prescriptions, they allow prescribers to send an instant, accurate, and fully understandable prescription directly to a pharmacy at any time.

How Do Electronic Prescriptions Improve Pharm Tech?

Perhaps the biggest advantage of electronic prescriptions has to do with the idea that they are, by design, totally understandable by pharmacists and technicians everywhere. Most of us are familiar with the old joke of not being able to read a doctor’s handwriting. Sadly, it’s not a joke – research has indicated that poor handwriting is absolutely a problem in medicine. Prescriptions that are perfectly clear are easier to fill by pharmacy technicians and can then get into the hands of patients without error, improving their experience and the quality of care they receive.

How Do You Use It?

With electronic prescriptions, a healthcare provider can send a prescription to a pharmacist directly from the electronic health record (EHR) solution they’re already using. All they must do is type the appropriate medication into the HER and select the patient’s desired pharmacy, and the prescription can be transmitted instantly.

What Is Telepharmacy and How Does It Work?

Finally, we arrive at the idea of the telepharmacy. This is a way of using state-of-the-art technology to get pharmaceutical products and associated care into the hands of the patients who need them all in a convenient location. Why is the location so convenient? Because it’s wherever the patient needs it to be! Telepharmacy refers to pharmacists providing care and medication management services to patients via remote communication technologies, including video conferencing and telephone calls. It allows pharmacists to review medication orders, offer drug information and counseling, monitor patients’ medication therapy, and perform medication reconciliations, all from a remote location. Telepharmacy services are ideal for patients without easy access to traditional pharmacy services, such as those living in rural areas or living with mobility impairments.

What Are the Advantages of Using Telepharmacy?

The major advantages of using Telepharmacy vary depending on which type you’re talking about. One way that this concept is being utilized has to do with remote order entry review, for example. In this case, hospitals and other health systems benefit a great deal because medication orders can be reviewed and verified in real-time, meaning that if a hospital’s in-house pharmacy is experiencing delays due to a spike in prescriptions, remote pharmacies can fill-in to help patients get access to the medication they need without the wait.

Remote dispensing is another example of how Telepharmacy is commonly used, and it benefits a lot of outpatient/discharge pharmacies, as well as retail community pharmacies. Regardless of where someone is (like if they’re traveling away from home), they still have convenient access to a pharmacist and to all their prescription medication.

How Is it Used in the Real World?

Just a few examples of how Telepharmacy solutions are being used in the real world include but are not limited to ones like patient counseling, drug therapy monitoring, and refill authorization. If a patient needs a prescription refilled, for example, they don’t necessarily need to go to see their prescribing provider for authorization. Now, patients can use telehealth technology to receive those same services in places like nursing homes, hospitals, and other medical facilities as well.

Another example of how Telepharmacy is being used in the real world has to do with remote counseling. Here, pharmacists can offer patients the counseling they need via video sessions without requiring both parties to be present in the same place at the same time. Rather than making someone drive into the pharmacy (which they may or may not even be able to do), they can hop on a secure, live video call and get the same information in a fraction of the time. Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians can get people the high-quality service they need while saving both time and money.

Carrington College Pharmacy Technician Certificate

At Carrington College, our Pharmacy Technology program is designed to help people learn the real-world skills they will need to pursue an exciting career in this field. With flexible learning options available in 12 locations, students learn about everything from the nervous system and retail operations theory to prescription processing, pharmacy software, calculations theory and more.

If you’re interested in finding out more information about the types of trends and innovations that are shaping the future of technology in pharmacy on a daily basis, or if you’d just like to speak to someone about starting your education in more detail, please don’t hesitate to contact Carrington College today.

Sources:

  1. Softermii: https://www.softermii.com/blog/the-future-of-pharmaceutical-information-technology
  2. DrugTopics: 2023 Technology Trends: Examining the Impact on Independent Pharmacy
  3. Neoteric: What Is the Future of Pharmacy? New Technological Solutions

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