A long time ago, apothecaries sourced plants and chemical ingredients in the countryside to prepare medicinal potions in the back of their office. Things have evolved, and pharmacists have not much in common with their glorious ancestors. Over the past decades, pharmacies have mostly been commoditized and absorbed by large retail companies.

Technology and digital healthcare are pushing the boundaries one step further. In this article, we will reflect on what could be the path of the digital apothecaries and how the way they deliver drugs will evolve to serve the patients better and ultimately improve our health.

Will robots replace pharmacies in the future?

Using technology has benefits to both patients and healthcare providers. Smart devices, like smartphones and watches, can use artificial intelligence to notify patients to get refills and provide them with information related to medication in a convenient and timely way. Bioelectrical signals in smartwatches provide constant health monitoring, and they can alert the patient’s doctor and emergency medical services if there is an emergency. App developers have been especially focused on epilepsy patients. Some smartwatches utilize integrated bioelectric scanners and built-in accelerometers to notify caregivers and record when seizures occur.

Devices can take over the pharmaceutical industry in the future. Technology is positively shaping the future of pharmacy. It gets rid of cumbersome administrative duties. Techs will mostly take over issues relating to overseeing and managing software, among other things. Soon there might be training and certification of techs in the operation of machines that’ll be used to dispense medicine, purchase inventory, fill prescriptions, and more.

Robots might be used to help with following up on patients’ metrics, including vaccination status and adherence. They’ll also be important in helping identify patients who need pharmacist intervention. Other ways they’ll help is by playing a role in auditing and assisting in regulatory compliance. It’s an important role in ensuring that pharmacies are within the quality metrics. That’s especially important for pharmacies that work with 340-B accredited organizations.

It’s possible to also integrate technology and software systems with pharmacies on the administrative level. If software can automate tiresome processes and streamline the distribution of medications, it will be beneficial to both patients and pharmacies.

Will pharmaceutical booths and pharma drones become the norm?

Pharma drones will be useful in pharmacy by helping with modernizing how medical deliveries are done. Very shortly, they will have the potential to enable large-scale deliveries of medical samples, long-tail medicines, as well as blood. Drones have the potential to modify the pharmaceutical supply chain. In 2019, UPS signed an agreement with CVS to bring drug delivery to a new level.

It’s disappointing that there are still some people in rural areas who still can’t access healthcare. The pandemic has brought a new urgency to closing these gaps in the field of medicine. Drones have the capability to provide supplies of important medical items on time regardless of the location. They have just recently started to establish a variety of landmark moments.

A noteworthy example has been China. The government piloted ways to include drones in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. It can act as an example for other countries to respond to different healthcare problems. The drones have been used for: transportation of samples, drone delivery of medications, aerial spray, and disinfection. Pharmaceutical booths might also be an efficient way to educate healthcare providers about pharmaceutical companies’ products and pipelines.

They’re basically like medical kiosks that provide pharmaceutical services. Patients can walk in, have a normal health check, and consult with healthcare professionals through telecommunication. However, despite seeming promising, most similar ventures have proven to be unsuccessful. An example of such is Healthspot, a telemedicine kiosk startup that failed in 2016 despite raising over $40 million.

Nevertheless, many companies are still considering medical booths with pharmaceutical offerings to enhance access to healthcare. The booths can primarily be used successfully on a smaller scale. They can still achieve the much-expected success that a lot of people are hoping for. In China, insurer Ping-An Good doctor introduced health booths with some success. The main challenge would be for pharmacies to consider investing in the kiosks. This is because patients can already access most of the technology used through their phones.

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How will telehealth shape the future of pharmacy?

Community pharmacists have several duties, including collecting and assessing data from their patients for different reasons. The information is used for immunization administration, chronic disease state education, therapy management, and health screenings. Telehealth is transforming pharmacy practice. One of the many ways community pharmacy practice can be transformed is through the Pharmacist e-Care Plan.

It can be used in the pharmacy school curriculum to teach pharmacy students how to provide efficient patient care services in the community. It makes it possible for patients who are in rural areas to meet with pharmacists and pharmacy students through live-video feeds over their phones. Remote pharmacists are connected to rural hospitals. They review a patient’s electronic medical history before they allow medical staff to dispense medications.

Will drugs be 3D printed?

3D-printed drugs are now becoming a reality. The incredible technology can fabricate many shapes for any drug. It involves placing raw materials in a printer, and it manufactures an object with the recommended dose without changing its characteristics. Some changes can occur, but mostly the changes are to improve the medicines. 3D printing leads to a more effective absorption process.

According to research, the body absorbs pyramid-shaped pills much faster, while cylindrical ones take more time. The selection of oddly shaped pills modifies the surface in contact with water, which changes the drug release.

To wrap up

Pharmacy is a dynamic and ever-growing field. There have been significant changes, and still, more changes are being introduced. Most of the changes being made are highly beneficial to both patients and pharmacists. The future of pharmacy is certainly bright, with most of the modifications, including the use of robots, 3D printing of medications, and telehealth, working well so far. However, pharmaceutical booths still appear unsuccessful but might actually end up changing the way medicine will be delivered in the future.

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