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Future of healthcare: The upcoming roles of pharmacists


In the present day, pharmacists can perform a range of clinical functions. The professional area is at a stage in which it can redefine its role. However, it seems that the industry is standing at a decisive point that will determine progress. So, what will the future of healthcare look like?

According to a recent study by Deloitte, it’s predicted that healthcare will shift away from treatment and focus more on prevention and well-being. Since 2020, there are more opportunities for pharmacists to deliver hands-on care which will change their role as we know it. In an inquiry to 36 industry experts in the US, Deloitte aimed at getting some relevant answers.

The future of healthcare

Retail pharmacy today: What’s the panorama?

For many years, the main source of revenue for retail pharmacies was the selling of drugs from pharmaceutical companies. But thanks to reduced reimbursement and dispensing fees and the growing competition in the industry, profitability has been suppressed.

The main issue? The fact that pharmacists’ work tends to be very focused on products, even in clinical settings. There are more and more barriers that will forever change these professionals’ roles as clinical service providers.

Some of these barriers involve operational and technical obstacles. For example, there’s the fact that many pharmacy management systems don’t have access to a patient’s health records.

The future roles of pharmacists

There are many future roles predicted for pharmacists in a near future. They were split into four main categories:

  1. Primary care: Pharmacists can either supplement or extend primary care services in different health fields. This can encompass areas such as chronic condition management, prevention and wellness, and even mental health support.
  2. Specialty care: Therapies are predicted to become more complex with time. Predictions point to greater demand for specific areas of care, namely oncology, cell and gene, and rare diseases.
  3. Digital health: The transition of this sector to the digital sphere can be a big advantage for pharmacists of the future. Soon, digital therapeutics and point-in-care diagnostics can be provided to patients. There’s also an increased possibility of medical devices and health apps being a common reality through which relevant data on users can be provided.
  4. Population health analytics: Lastly, there’s a chance that pharmacists might move into analytical roles to help identify a variety of health improvement opportunities. Even today many of them analyze health data, identify some trends and test some population health interventions.

Will the digital transition have a role to play here?

The answer to this question is: certainly. Market trends will accelerate innovation from both pharma companies and pharmacists.

Firstly, to perform clinical activities, pharmacists require access to electronic health information. Many organizations are redesigning their care models for a virtual environment. This will come off as a great advantage for this industry.

Other tools such as telepharmacy or dispensing software will be useful. The first option can help pharmacists with activities around medication reconciliation and coordination with retail pharmacies. The second will be of great use to enable remote verifications.

There are also new competitors that rose to fame in the last two years of the pandemic. In the case of pharmacists, many of them are losing market share to other viable options such as online delivery or digital disruptors (such as GoodRx and Amazon). Many products switched to e-commerce since the pandemic began, and it seems to be a change here to stay.

Another growing hypothesis is that there may be a wider search for a more integrated approach to medicine. By this, we are referring to medical, pharmacy, and care management programs. This will be more relevant as more options regarding digital health tools are introduced to this sector.

Without a doubt, the pandemic came to expose several cracks in the US’ public health and healthcare delivery systems. This makes pharmacists a potential resource that can shift the future of the public health infrastructure for the better.

Many of these companies will have to rethink their business models. This will involve a shift in operations, staffing, reimbursement, and, of course, technology. By doing so, it can be beneficial for all the partners of this work area (payers, providers, patients, and pharmacists themselves).

Currently, pharmacists stand in the same boat as pharma companies: they either adapt or risk losing the game.

What does this mean for pharma companies?

In many cases, pharmaceutical companies lack experience working with pharmacists. Furthermore, these are limited in resources, given that different types of initiatives entail different costs and returns on investment. Yet there’s a catch to this mutating role of pharmacists as we know it.

The fact that pharma companies rely on pharmacists for a part of their profit means a lot from this perspective. It goes to show that the disruption that the pandemic created for healthcare had a deep impact on a variety of work areas.

Pharmacists, like pharmaceutical companies, have an adaptation process undergoing in their work. By now it’s very evident that these two separate workforces in the health field still have a lot to gain from each other. This makes pharmacy a potential stakeholder 

By leveraging pharmacists’ expanding role in patient-centric initiatives, pharmaceutical companies can gain a competitive advantage. Through a partnership with these important players, pharmaceutical companies can ensure an improved patient experience.

For this to work for both game players, it will be important for pharmaceutical companies to identify and seize opportunities. It can be achieved by developing initiatives with added value that incorporate administrative constraints, pharmacist perspectives, and patient centricity.

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