A wedding can be viewed as the single-most disruptive, yet exhilarating event we encounter in our lifetimes. It marks the dawn of the deep commitment we are prepared to make to the one we love and the journey to create a remarkable future together. It is expected that over the journey there will be as many challenges as there are celebrations which test our resolve, which as pharmacists we know only too well in profession and industry. It is widely discussed that pharmacy faces an uncertain future in the face of disruption and the many forms it can take, but to succeed we must take the first positive step forward and marry disruption rather than contemplate our destruction by its unstoppable force.
As with most traditional weddings where it’s customary to include something new, something old, and something borrowed I present you with one of each for your pharmacy to embody at this momentous time:
Advanced robotics and 3D printing will eventually make all pharmacists redundant in roles encompassing manufacturing, logistics, and delivery of pharmaceutical products to patients. Thus the community pharmacist’s role is best placed to revisit one of its earliest historical strengths in translating and personalising the world’s pharmaceutical formulary for each patient. Harnessing this innate skill, and armed with the power of big data (patient data transmitted by the internet of things, and the latest clinical research) will see the positioning of the pharmacist as a trusted advisor in our communities. This agency will require a re-design of the pharmacy in-store experience placing less emphasis on the density of product range and more on the availability of pharmacist consultation. I believe many of us dreamt of this eventuality when we first set foot in a lecture theatre when beginning our pharmacy courses, but for many reasons (tradition, complacency, peer expectation) have been hammered into accepting the status quo and a career in transactional pharmacy.
Technology as a bona fide business partner. There are many global examples of people and companies who have sat on either side of this issue, and sadly those who refuse to embrace a true technology partnership in business are now in irreversible demise or have simply perished. In this article, I will present to you one shining example, as we a mostly all too familiar with companies who struggle against this. The Mayo Clinic (USA) is a world renowned large medical practice who continue to innovate more heavily than any other in the industry and chose to embed technology into their DNA in May 2015. This came as it was announced that an unprecedented partnership would commence with IBM Watson, the world’s first commercially available cognitive computing capability. Which when applied to electronic health records, both patients and healthcare professionals benefit from more rapid and thorough analysis of the medical factors that could impact an individual’s health and wellness. It is also worthy of note that CVS Pharmacy (USA) soon followed in a similar undertaking. It may seem like light years away from arriving on our shores, but we only need to examine the number of browser tabs and programs open in our pharmacies each day to realise that it is only a matter of time before these clinical resources, databases, and collaboration platforms are presented more efficiently to us via an intuitive artificial intelligence engine.
One only needs to observe human behaviour right under our noses in our pharmacies, or any place of dwell time to notice that the physical world has already merged with the digital world. Our patients while they wait in front of you visibly, have virtually left your pharmacy and are visiting other retail stores, banks, travel agencies, or catching up with friends via social media platforms. It is now entirely conceivable in 2016, that a person could never need to leave their home ever again to procure any physical item, and soon with the burgeoning wave of virtual reality technology may be able to experience the world in ways we never thought physically possible. The pharmacy experience in this omnichannel world is in our hands to influence, and collectively we’re already showing up in our patient’s digital world through e-commerce, social media, and mobile applications. In a world where you are who google says you are, can you confidently say that your patients are seeing an authentic representation of you and your pharmacy when they enter the digital world or are they only seeing small glimpses that leave them open to being wooed by your closest competitor?
Now you may be thinking that in marriage there’s usually also something blue, but that is reserved for the feelings of the dooms dayers waiting for robots to take over the world, and those who refuse the take their heads out of the sand hoping the halcyon days of the 1990’s and 2000’s will simply return. But if you’ve read all the way to the end you’ve already contemplated your next move and are on your way to creating your pharmacy’s remarkable future.