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From fear to opportunity: debunking myths and harnessing the power of AI in community pharmacy

As the world advances rapidly into the digital age, Australian community pharmacies face an ever-evolving landscape that demands innovation and adaptability.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been heralded as a transformative force in various industries, and the pharmacy sector is no exception.

Specifically, its role in healthcare, and its potential to enhance pharmacists’ ability to provide patient care and manage pharmacy operations is being increasingly recognised and embraced by pharmacy owners and their teams – many of whom are unaware that AI is working in the background to begin with.

This article aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of AI and its potential implications for Australian pharmacies. We will explore the myths surrounding AI, its role in community pharmacy, the benefits it brings to pharmacists with an expanding scope of practice, and the practical steps pharmacies can take to embrace this technology. By addressing the fears and misconceptions, we hope to facilitate a productive conversation that will ultimately benefit both patients and practitioners.

What is AI?

Artificial intelligence, at its core, is the development of computer systems that can perform tasks typically requiring human intelligence. These tasks may include problem-solving, learning, perception, and language understanding. AI systems come in various forms, from simple rule-based systems to more complex machine-learning models that can adapt and evolve over time.

There are two broad categories of AI: narrow AI, which is designed for a specific task or set of tasks, and general AI, which is meant to possess human-like cognitive abilities across a wide range of tasks. While general AI remains a distant goal, narrow AI applications are already making significant inroads into various industries, including healthcare and pharmacy.

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In pharmacy, AI can be used for a variety of applications, including data analysis, patient monitoring, diagnosis, and treatment planning. Today, AI algorithms already help pharmacists with many tasks including medication management, patient compliance, drug interactions, patient engagement and dosage calculations.

However, as AI becomes increasingly sophisticated, thanks to advances in machine learning and the availability of vast amounts of data, ongoing growth in this technology will spur excitement, but like any change, also increase trepidation in equal measure.

“The world hasn’t had that many technologies that are both promising and dangerous — you know, we had nuclear energy and nuclear weapons.”

Bill Gates

It’s therefore our role as health entrepreneurs to become more aware of the technology we use, its impact in how we deliver healthcare, and how our patients engage with us through platforms that use AI. Moreso however, we must be able to navigate through the myths and understand the true realities of this platform, and its capabilities, both for good, and for bad.

The Myths of AI

Misconceptions surrounding AI have bred fear and skepticism, particularly when it comes to the potential impact on jobs and the way we work. Here, we debunk some of the most common myths and provide a more balanced perspective on AI’s role in community pharmacy.


While AI has the potential to automate certain tasks, it is unlikely to replace human pharmacists entirely. AI lacks a critical element of the pharmacist-human experience – emotional intelligence (EQ). EQ and complex reasoning skills are critical to ensure empathetic patient interactions occur. Instead though, AI will augment the pharmacist capabilities, free up time, and allow them to focus on meaningful interactions with their patients through value-added services and personalised and holistic advice.


AI systems are not immune to errors, particularly when they rely on poor-quality or biased data. Collaboration between humans and AI will therefore be crucial to ensure the best outcomes for patients. More importantly though, the introduction of AI does not negate the responsibilities of the pharmacist. Pharmacists must be vigilant in evaluating AI-generated insights and maintaining a healthy skepticism to ensure accurate information is communicated at all times.

“Our intelligence is what makes us human, and ai is an extension of that quality.”

Yann LeCun


With a growing workload, and ongoing labour shortages, effective and efficient time utilisation is key. Instead of replacing jobs within the industry, AI will allow pharmacy owners and their teams to redeploy talent to much more meaningful and ultimately profitearning activities. AI implementation will create new jobs and opportunities for pharmacists to expand their scope of practice. AI will allow pharmacists to focus more on patient care and less on administrative tasks, such as inventory management and dispensing.


The benefits of AI are not limited to big corporations. Community pharmacies can also harness AI to streamline operations, improve patient outcomes, and support an expanding scope of practice. The key though is to truly understand the problems you need solving, and to find the right AI applications that align with your goals and objectives to overcome them.

AI in Community Pharmacy

The role of AI in community pharmacy is expanding, and it is becoming an increasingly essential tool for pharmacy owners and their teams, even if they don’t know that they’re likely using AI already in their business.

An example of how AI is being used in community pharmacies today is in medication management systems. These systems use machine learning algorithms to predict when patients will run out of medication and send refill reminders.

They can also help pharmacists identify potential drug interactions, side effects, and allergies, and provide dosing recommendations based on the patient’s medical history. This technology can also provide better access to medical information, enabling pharmacists to make informed decisions about patient care.

Beyond just these examples, and as our scope of practice expands, AI is well-positioned to play a growing role in community pharmacy, enabling pharmacists to improve patient care, increase efficiency and productivity, and enhance the accuracy of medication dispensing.

Specifically though, pharmacists will need to overcome the roadblocks, challenges, and obstacles currently faced around a lack of time, a lack of talent, and a lack of change management ability to embrace the evolutionary changes to the way we practice pharmacy.

AI plays just one role in this evolution and offers numerous benefits including:


By automating repetitive tasks and providing data-driven insights, AI can free up time for pharmacists to engage more closely with patients, resulting in better health outcomes.


AI can help pharmacists develop tailored treatment plans based on individual patient needs, taking into account factors such as genetics, lifestyle, and medical history.


AI can provide pharmacists with real-time data and analytics, enabling them to make informed decisions about patient care and pharmacy operations.


AI can facilitate communication and collaboration between pharmacists and other healthcare professionals, leading to a more integrated and effective healthcare system.

All in all though, pharmacists must adapt and innovate to remain relevant in the age of AI. Those who harness the power of this technology will be better positioned to serve their patients and communities.

“Artificial intelligence isn’t an intruder in our lives but a multi-talented assistant that can improve our lifestyle if used in the right way.”

Aamina Suleman

Leveraging AI Today

As community pharmacies continue to grapple with time and resource constraints, it’s essential that they start exploring and using AI solutions to help remove obstacles and achieve their expanding scopes of practice. While it can be daunting to embark on new technologies, there are several steps that pharmacy owners and their teams can take right now to start exploring and using AI to help overcome these obstacles.

“By far, the greatest danger of artificial intelligence is that people conclude too early that they understand it.”

Eliezer Yudkowsky

Firstly, pharmacy owners and their teams need to identify the core problems, roadblocks, challenges, and obstacles within their businesses that are causing the lack of time and resources. They should then prioritize these obstacles and focus on solving them one at a time.

Secondly, they should start researching AI solutions that could help overcome these obstacles. There are several AI-based products and services available for community pharmacies, including inventory management, patient engagement, and chronic care management systems. Pharmacy owners and their teams should evaluate these solutions to determine which ones align with their business goals and budget.

Thirdly, once they have identified potential AI solutions, they should reach out to the vendors and schedule a demonstration or consultation. This will help pharmacy owners and their teams to better understand the benefits and limitations of each solution and decide whether it’s a good fit for their business.

Fourthly, pharmacy owners and their teams should prioritise training and education on leveraging their clinical skill set, by developing and harnessing an entrepreneurial skill set. AI solutions are just one piece of the puzzle. It takes a holistic approach to ensure the roadblocks, challenges and obstacles are overcome. By investing in training and education for their teams, pharmacy owners can ensure that they are best placed to understand, adapt to and implement the changes required to thrive in this increasingly complex and competitive landscape.

Finally, pharmacy owners and their teams should foster a culture of innovation and improvement, and look towards ways to regularly monitor, evaluate and refine the effectiveness of their systems, processes and workflows. They should gather feedback from their teams and patients, analyse their data, and make adjustments as necessary.

By following these five steps, community pharmacies are better equipped to overcome the challenges associated with time, talent and tactics, resulting in an increased ability to seize emerging opportunities, provide better patient care, and operate more efficiently.

In conclusion, AI is rapidly transforming healthcare, and community pharmacy is no exception. By automating routine tasks and providing personalised support for chronic disease management, AI can enable pharmacists to focus on patient care, expand their clinical role, and increase revenue streams for their businesses. However, despite the benefits of AI, there is also a fear of how AI will impact pharmacy jobs, patient privacy, and overall healthcare costs. It is important for community pharmacy stakeholders to understand the potential of AI and how it can be integrated into practice to enhance patient care and support the expanding scope of practice for Australian pharmacists. As community pharmacy continues to evolve, AI will play an increasingly important role in shaping the future of the industry. As we move forward, we must continue to explore new technologies and innovative solutions that will enable us to provide better care to our patients, improve health outcomes, and enhance the overall patient experience. You must find holistic solutions, and training programs that empower your pharmacy and the teams within it to embrace these technologies and to cultivate the entrepreneurial skill set required to grow, run, lead and even own a thriving pharmacy.

Image by DCStudio on Freepik.

Zamil Solanki works with healthpreneurs – from individuals to large multi-national organisations – to help them overcome unique challenges and achieve their goals through curated training programs, and tailored holistic solutions.

Unlike other coaches and consultants, we pair global research and techniques with our own experiences, having grown our own pharmacy by $4 million and exiting it for 3x the industry average multiple. To do this, we focus holistically using 5 key pillars – mindset, planning, leadership, marketing and sales and specialize in workflow, innovation, automation and systems.

Zamil Solanki
Pharmacist, Business Strategist & Entrepreneurial Coach
To book a completely confidential chat, head to

Read the article in ITK here ITK May 2023 – Pharmacy ITK

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