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How to automate in the pharmaceutical sector

A pharmacist needs to consider many working factors in order to make the right decisions around automation. Here we list the key points:

A pharmacist needs to consider many working factors in order to make the right decisions around automation. Here we list the key points:


  • Maintenance and servicing
  • User Training
  • Compatibility with strategic goals
  • Cost for implementing existing informatic systems interface
  • Existing customer survey
  • Impact on patient safety
  • Impact on controlled substances
  • Options from other competitors
  • Possible new clinical services
  • Meet your needs rather than redesign current system to fit
  • Current users
  • Vendors training support

Pharmacists also need to ensure the system performs accurately with minimal errors.

This can be achieved by:

  • Effectively integrating automation into the existing medication-use system
  • Hire dedicated professionals
  • Advocate adequate training, staffing, work procedures and checks
  • Barcode label medications should be maximized
  • Information technologies integration
  • Pharmacists must oversee dispensing process despite automation
  • Pharmacists must input into clinical decision support protocols
  • Freeing pharmacists to carry out clinical activities
  • Improve and enforce patient safety protocols

There are certain safety features that should be considered:

  • Barcode system
  • User should be alerted after every unusual event
  • Unusual events should be documented and reported daily for a follow-up.
  • Each user should have a unique identification code
  • Audit trails of user actions must be reported
  • Identify patient, medications, administer details of every administration
  • Devices should be interlaced with the pharmacy computer systems
  • Reminders for when a medication dose is due
  • Warn caregivers about possible allergies, interactions, duplications etc.
  • Patient specific information must be timely, accurate, and easily accessible
  • Information system made available electronically at the point of care
  • Real-time integration for all steps in the medication-use process

There were concerns about automation reducing the need for pharmacists. However, in reality this is the opposite due to aging population, increased recognition of pharmacists’ value and increasing complexity of medication used in hospitals.

Automation allows pharmacists to be more involved with direct patient care. Pharmacists need to advocate their own value to physicians and administrators.

The future role of pharmacists depends on:

  • Breadth of tasks pharmacy technician can legally perform
  • Reimbursed for medication therapy management services
  • Productivity of automated systems
  • Extent which pharmacists can improve quality and overall lower cost of patient care

Future roles of pharmacists my include the following:


  • Drug therapy management
  • Electronic information management
  • Assess patient compliance and medication-related outcomes
  • Patient education
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Good Pharmacy Practice: Pharmaceutical Services

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