With the current landscape of the industry, if posed the question, “would you go to pharmacy school again,” many pharmacists may say they’d reconsider. But me? I’d absolutely love to go back to pharmacy school. Heck, I wish I could go back to undergrad, remember all the free time?!
Yes, independent pharmacies are barely surviving, there are more pharmacists entering the job market than there might be jobs, health giants are merging, and everyone’s terrified of what’ll happen if Amazon enters into our field.
I get it.
And it is, but…
This is a really exciting time for pharmacy. The profession is going to see some amazing changes and I hope this article will show you why I’d do it all over again.
The role of a pharmacist will always be needed. Until the robots actually take over, we’ll always be in demand. It will be competitive and it’s likely not going look like what it does today. When we were more commonly known as the “Druggist,” especially in the early 1900s late 1800s we were actually preparing and making medications. Now, with advances in tech, medicines are massed produced and we’re not just making sure the patient gets the right drug, we’re much more clinically involved than we used to be. So, what’s to come? Well, for one, innovations in technology will dramatically change the way medications are dispensed. There’ll soon be a time where after a medication is prescribed to a patient, that medication will be at the patients door in two hours. That’s just one change. What else?
The power of voice and what’s called machine learning is still in its infancy. 2017 was the first year people actually got Alexa devices (and the competition) as gifts. Who’s seen the commercials with the cars having them? Soon, wether it be an Alexa, Google Home, Apple Pod, or some machine that hasn’t come to market yet, there is going to be one of these things within 5–10 feet of you at all times. In your bathroom, in your car, at your pharmacy. I just asked Siri for a calculation the other day which helped me accurately enter information for a prescription. We literally don’t need to learn math anymore.
So where do pharmacists fit into this? How can we use this technology to provide better care? Glad you asked. If you didn’t know, there are a couple skill every successful pharmacist needs to master:
The unique thing about these two skills is that they’re actually keys to the design of a successful voice experience. Because of this, there’s a huge potential for pharmacists to have major roles in designing voice experiences around healthcare. I’m currently working on an Alexa skill that should be able to handle basic questions pharmacists encounter every day, e.g., “how do I treat allergies,” or “what can I put on a burn.” And it’s just the beginning, soon we’ll see these devices handle more complicated scenarios like post/pre op procedure questions. The more time passes the more advanced and smarter apps on these devices will get and the more it will need a highly trained individual, such as pharmacists.
I do foresee an unfortunate situation happening. And it happens in most industries. We saw it with Uber, we’re seeing it with AirBnb. Everything traditional is being rethought. And I think pharmacy will be no different.
Once sharing economics hit the pharmacy world, in addition to advancements in dispensing I think there will be disruptions in the patient-pharmacist relationship. The traditional pharmacist counseling that comes with a medication dispensed will be no more. Most individuals who take medications will have their own personal pharmacist to help them manage their medications and disease states. The job description of these new roles ware what I dreamed about in pharmacy school. Not being a highly paid cashier. Your role will go from occasionally ringing up Sandra’s weekly loaf of bread, to designing a highly individualized medication management plan for someone taking 15 medications. It’s what we actually go to school for.
Even other healthcare providers are going to feel our roles changing. Primary care practices are becoming overwhelmed with work and we’re starting to see a big shift in more and more healthcare providers relying on pharmacists for their knowledge on medications. Because of this, I see a future where pharmacists are employed at primary care practices. Actually, forget the future, it’s actually already a thing. You may have just not heard of it yet, but I think it’ll be mainstream, especially with new drugs coming out every year, new findings and updates to guidelines, it only makes sense for a physician to have a pharmacist part of his/her practice. Could you imagine a world where prescriptions wouldn't even leave the doctor’s office until it’s reviewed by a pharmacist?!
Bitcoin. Blockchain. Some new buzzwords that were hot in late 2017, early 2018. But where does it fit into healthcare, and more so, pharmacists? The whole movement starts to apply to our field when we realize that this technology has completely revolutionized the way we store data, view currency, and utilize legal contracts. Think of Bitcoin as being the first “application” of the technology. It started off by revolutionizing traditional paper currency, but it’s turning into much, much, more. Large organizations like IBM and Microsoft are already investing into the tech, and there are companies already developing blockchain healthcare applications. The two main areas of focus for blockchain in healthcare is tracking drugs during the drug supply chain and use in electronic health records. However, soon it will be an all areas in healthcare, which I’ll detail in coming articles. But both EHR and drug supply management have the potential for impactful roles that pharmacists can play a part in.
The above are just reasons I’m excited about what’s to come. There’s so much more out here for us. It’s going to be up to you to find it, or create it.
I’ll end with some advice. If you’re passionate about helping people. Pharmacy is a great industry to be in. But, if you’re (or were) looking for a stable career that pays, this may look like an attractive option, but it may not be right for you. All these things I mentioned above will take a lot of work to get to. It won’t just fall into our laps. It’ll be something we’ll have to go out and take. If I could do it all over again, I’d definitely go to pharmacy school, especially knowing what I know now.
Dr. Richard is the Founder of MedVize, a personal medication management company and is the host of Rx Radio, a podcast dedicated the pharmacy profession. He is a pharmacist who is committed to helping individuals better manage their health and medications. He is passionate about advancing the profession of pharmacy with a focus on machine learning and blockchain technologies. His mission is to provide people with understandable knowledge to best manage their health while ensuring their medications are convenient, affordable, safe, and effective. Dr. Richard holds a Doctorate of Pharmacy from the University of Florida, and fun fact, although living in sunny Miami, Florida, he loves snowboarding.