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The Machine Will be the Robot, not the Pharmacist.

Garry Boyd
From an Intellectual Capital Perspective

Issue 76: October 2008
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As more Pharmacists contemplate the use of automated solutions at a time when different models of Pharmacy are being bandied around with as much hit and miss as reality TV, the notion of “Clinical” Pharmacies as put forward by this writer last month may make some sense.
The Clinical Pharmacy as described would no doubt present a vastly different model to “Retail” and touch wood may even be profitable……….

Extended training of would be required to facilitate the transition from “Community Retail” Pharmacist to “Clinical” Pharmacist.

How far away we are from the suggestion the recently published English White Paper makes that to be able to meet the patient-centred vision of the future, a significant shift in teaching must occur?
Graduates of the future will be expected to enter the fray with a different skill and mindset than their peers.
Not all that long ago many pharmacists would have blinked at the notion that they were to graduate with the clinical, professional and leadership competencies required to deliver the services of the future.
The old codgers would laugh at the suggestion that Community Pharmacy would be automated and pharmacists would learn their craft with a significant emphasis on clinical content and not only be taught to adapt to new methods, but be responsible for driving their own professional development needs and having the capacity to embrace innovation so as to be able to take the delivery of patient care to new heights.

This writer has long held the view many Community Pharmacies have traditionally been over-staffed to a level that would never be tolerated in any other retail environment.
Well, I guess somebody has to dust off the baby china and give the pharmacist some comfort that the “Shop” is ticking over.
That was yesterday, tomorrow is definitely different.
The Pharmacy as we know it will not compete in a retail sense with the raiders when they parachute in with their flash rhetoric and wonderful “deals”.
Will Pharmacy proprietors embrace automation in both original pack and DAA supply?
It is said that the use of automation is surging ahead, but statistically in the UK it has slowed. In late 2004 less than 6 Hospitals employed automated solutions.
Twelve months later the figure had increased to nearly 50 with a further 30 being negotiated.

In March this year about 80 had been installed and 6 were under consideration.
Yes, the hospital market is different and the financial structure of Community Pharmacies suggests only those that enjoy high volume would consider automation, hence the slow rate of acceptance into Community Pharmacy.
After all, an investment of several “noughts” is enough to give any Pharmacist the jitters, especially as there have been a number of less than enthusiastic stories floating around regarding the presumed cost savings and rate of efficiency.

The successful Clinical Pharmacy of the future may be not much bigger than 100 square metres and offer no products for sale outside “Pharmacy”.
Staffing could be reduced to a Receptionist, a Sales/Stock assistant, two Dispensing Tech’s and of course the Pharmacist.
This futuristic Pharmacy would employ the use of both an original pack automated dispensing system and an automated DAA system.
One Tech would operate the DAA system under the direction of the Pharmacist and the other Tech would assist the Pharmacist and manage the stock requirements of both machines.
One Pharmacist and four other staff would be able to action 300 scripts and 250 DAA’s per day, making this a very profitable Pharmacy.

This of course assumes the Pharmacy design allows for a smooth flow of work and the two automated solutions are able to perform at a commercially sustainable level.
The ability to provide professional and commercially viable care to DAA patients in the future will define the sustainability of many Pharmacies.
Like dispensary dispensing solutions, assisted automated DAA solutions are gaining popularity and will no doubt play a critical role in “in-house” Pharmacy, particularly post 2010 when the first sniff of deregulation rains on the party and Baby Boomers start to hit the medication wall.

Pharmacists are brilliant “Multi-skillers” but often the mysterious skill of management (and particularly time management) deserts them at a pace that would relegate Usain Bolt to Silver. How much more productive would Pharmacists’ become if not burdened by the banality of managing a “Shop”?
Also, with well planned and strategically located automated solutions to assist, the Pharmacist will not need to “walk” for up to two kilometres per day.

It’s not a great leap to assume most Pharmacists would derive a greater level of professional satisfaction if they finally manage to deliver new age patient care on a full time basis, rather working as a Pharmacist being almost an interruption to the day. Garry Boyd.

October 2008.

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