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Technology in pharmacy and the impact of automation on pharmacists


Sara Garuti
October 30, 2023
Hospital
Reading Time: 3 min.
The advent of technologies has transformed the role of pharmacists. Automation solutions can handle routine, repetitive tasks, allowing pharmacists to allocate more time to critical responsibilities. They can refocus on tasks that require unique skills, professional judgement and experience such as specialized medication compounding, patient counseling and pharmaceutical research and innovation.
Technology in pharmacy

Implementing automation in hospitals: change management

Although pharmacy automation is a great relief, accepting new technologies in everyday routines and learning along the way how newly established processes actually work requires patience and adaptability.

With the introduction of automation, hospitals are compelled to reevaluate their operational and organizational procedures. Automation not only changes how tasks are done but also how they interact, leading to adjustments in workflow patterns, especially during the initial adoption of robotic systems.

Applying change management principles can help ease the transition to the new technology and minimize disruption. Effective communication is paramount; ensuring pharmacy staff members are aware of:

  • why the change is happening,
  • how it will benefit them, and
  • how it will be implemented

 

is crucial for buy-in. Training sessions should be conducted to ensure employees are comfortable with the new technology and processes.

Additionally, leadership needs to foster a culture that embraces change and promotes continuous learning. Initial resistance to change is expected, especially when introducing advanced technology, such as automated systems, into the workplace. However, by involving staff from the beginning in decision-making processes, addressing their concerns, and highlighting the benefits of pharmacy automation, hospitals can alleviate anxiety and resistance to the changes.

Explaining the why: benefits of automated processes

Especially explaining the why from the beginning can avoid frustration for the staff. Communicating in an easy-to-understand way is a good approach. It’s helpful to point out both the benefits for the entire healthcare facility and the advantages for each individual.

Automation offers several benefits that ultimately contribute to the optimization of healthcare processes:

  • improvement in efficiency: Automated systems can perform repetitive tasks faster and with more accuracy than humans, thus reducing errors and improving patient safety. For instance, automated medication dispensing systems ensure the right medication is given to the right patient at the right time (5 rights of medication), thus minimizing medication errors.
  • better tracking and management of inventory.
  • Automation frees up time for healthcare professionals to focus on more complex tasks and direct patient care.
Robotic dispensing

Adopting automation in pharmacy processes

Despite a shift in mindset, learning to work with automation in a pharmacy requires pharmacists and pharmaceutical assistants to gain new skills and knowledge about the technology:

  1. Understand the basic operations of robotic dispensing systems like pharmacy storage systems and unit dose solutions.
  2. Understand the data and information that the systems generate.
  3. Acquire basic troubleshooting skills.

1 Understand basic operations

Comprehending the fundamental workings of robotic dispensing systems and unit dose solutions empowers pharmacy staff to maximize the benefits of automation technology. Usually, manufacturers equip you with in-depth training and comprehensive user manuals that can help grasp these operational aspects.

2 Understand data and information

It is also important to understand the data and information that the automated systems generate. It enables you to extract meaningful insights, make informed decisions, and continuously enhance pharmacy processes based on the information gathered. Whether it's optimizing medication inventory levels, identifying dispensing patterns, or improving workflow efficiency, a grasp of the automation system's operations empowers pharmacists to leverage data-driven strategies for enhanced patient care and pharmacy management.

3 Basic troubleshooting skills

While automated systems are designed for smooth operation, occasional issues, errors, or unexpected behaviors may occur. Pharmacists should be capable of identifying issues and knowing when to seek professional assistance from the supplier. This reduces downtime and minimizes disruptions in your processes.

Conclusion: Adapting to change is easier when knowing the why

In conclusion, the integration of automation presents both challenges and opportunities within the healthcare and pharmacy landscape. While adapting to these changes may be demanding, the benefits include streamlined processes, enhanced patient safety, and improved healthcare outcomes. As healthcare facilities increasingly embrace automation, the roles of pharmacists and healthcare professionals will evolve, positioning them as pivotal contributors to the patient care journey.

About the author

Sara Garuti, works as Marketing and Communications Manager at Swisslog Healthcare.


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