Will Technology Replace Pharmacists?

Maybe it can. But there are aspects of healthcare that can never be automated.

Yes, I worked in healthcare and consulted for one of the stakeholders, and I have seen the benefits of automation – reducing human errors, improving delivery efficiency.

But healthcare is a human profession, dealing with human beings and usually human beings who are sick, in pain, hurt, scared, and suffering.

Pharmacists are a member of the healthcare “human care team”, just as physicians and other healthcare professionals are part of that whole unit of caregivers and experts whose job is to focus on that one patient in front of them who is sick, in pain, hurt, scared, and suffering in some way. They know that one day, just like you and I will were we to live long enough or old enough, they and each one of us will be a patient one day.

So the point of pharmacy as a profession is the same in its foundation as the point of medicine as a profession, medical science (that branch of PhD research science dealing with human beings and human bodies in some way) as a profession, and any applied healthcare related business as a profession (regulators of industry, manufacturers of drugs, devices, and diagnostics) –

To care not just the human body but the human being.

Yes, you can get a machine to query for medicines that the patient is taking, whether there are supplements or drugs that may pose adverse interactions. You can print out sheets of information to get the patient to know how to take the drug, when to take it, what to watch out for… But the pharmacist with the human touch can get the patient to feel like he is being cared for, that his health and life are important, and that he matters. That can go a long way in gaining patient compliance and having a positive experience in healthcare.

This is something that we may improve with technology – but can never replace.

Other people’s take on this issue

3 thoughts on “Will Technology Replace Pharmacists?

  1. Rik Jones

    I agree greatly with your view of this topic. However as a technologist who moved into IT as a second career, my focus has been on not Technology in a bubble, but the value technology can add to people. Essentially IT Service Management or IT as a Service. Many in IT do not understand this concept, but as a business facing technologist who takes time to understand the application of technology towards the value of its delivery, I can very much see the potential it has to offer in the delivery of human services such as the medical industry. One day, I hope to be able to move into that Industry as a technologist.

  2. Jane Chin, Ph.D.

    Thanks for the feedback Rik! I definitely agree on a role for technology – and an integral one at that (EMR especially) – in reducing human source effort. No doubt about it, technology CAN help healthcare professionals do better in saving lives by not making avoidable errors. However my main concern is that business execs tend to look at this through very skewed eyes and say “people are too expensive, machines are cheaper, let’s get machines and get rid of the people.” That was what I was advocating against. I think you’d be great in the industry as a technologist.

  3. Surbhi

    I agree with your point of view on this issue. However, another perspective is that Pharma is advancing only because of technology. So they go hand in hand. While I was looking for medicine related blogs, I came across this piece of information which might be helpful for you if you ever come to India. The Airpoyt Authority of India, a government body that regulates airports in India, outsourced its medical facilities at the international terminal of the Chennai airport to Apollo Hospitals Chennai. You can read more about this on http://www.apollohospitals.com/news_detail.php?newsid=134

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