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Pharmacy Technology and Innovation

Much has been written about technology and innovation in pharmacy over the years. Community pharmacy relies heavily on technology to complete complex tasks and manage key patient data. Community pharmacy has also been an early adopter of technology relative to other community-based health practices.

However, have we been innovative?

Pharmacy needs leadership to promote and provoke change, as well as embrace technology with a view to better patient management and new service delivery models. Technology and Innovation is more than just pharmacy management; it is increasingly about consumer/patient engagement and management!

I believe there are Forces of Change for Pharmacy. These are overriding forces which will no doubt impact on pharmacy and continue to drive the strategic value of community pharmacy. One of the forces is Innovation.

It is my view that, fundamentally, we must move away from the current supply and remuneration debates to engage with the consumer or patient.

We also need to rethink our business model and consider the broader scope of our relationship with the community (including other healthcare stakeholders).
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Innovation

The challenge here is that Technology Changes Everything — and then Changes it Again.

Disruptive use of technology and new market approaches will see small, young and nimble operators with innovative ideas seize the market. We can no longer rely on 1950s-based service models (including the PBS) as the basis for the sustainability of community pharmacy.

I read with interest in the Australian Doctor publication an article titled, Warning over ‘Uberisation’ of Medicine. The article refers to a new service which offers pay-by-the-minute GP consultations over the phone — Teleconsult.

While the conversation around innovation has been significant, little has changed for many pharmacies over the last decade (or more). New models will inevitably need to be developed by pharmacy or by someone else.

Innovation in pharmacy will require the generation of new ideas or approaches which are replicable, financially viable and satisfy community needs.

For pharmacy, innovation must satisfy the needs and expectations of the consumers and pharmacy stakeholders (including pharmacy owners, employees and suppliers) in a better and more fulfilling manner.

Innovation can take two broad forms:

  1. Evolutionary
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    This is where the advances and changes are made based on current systems, processes and pharmacy offers. Incremental changes are introduced to progress to a new, modified market offer or process. This is often referred to as continuous or dynamic innovation, and has generally been the focus of Australian pharmacy innovation.
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  2. Revolutionary
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    Here, the focus is on disruption or new approaches. Revolutionary innovation is also referred to as discontinuous innovation. While there is some suggestion that this may be on the horizon for Australian pharmacy, this has not been the historical experience for pharmacy.

Inevitably, innovation is associated with risk. Creating a revolutionary system, process, or market offer for Australian community pharmacy will require risk-taking to create new opportunities for pharmacy and establish or sustain new markets.
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Technology

While we often consider technology as relating to IT, computers and automation, the definition is that technology is “the collection of techniques, skills, methods and processes used in the production of goods or services or in the accomplishment of objectives, such as scientific investigation”.

Since the 1970s, pharmacy has been an early adopter in information technology and computers. For pharmacy, IT in the initial dispensary computers enabled greater efficiency in the processing of patient prescriptions, storage of structure patient records and providing checks for the monitoring of safe medicine use.

Subsequently, business software was introduced which enabled better business management, inventory management and supply chain management.
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New Frontiers and Focus in Innovation and Technology

Let’s start (or perhaps continue) the discussion on new frontiers and areas of focus for pharmacy innovation and technology. The following list provides a few suggestions for us, and perhaps pharmacy generally, to consider, workshop and discuss.

  1. New and innovative platforms
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    We need to look to new and innovative models for service delivery for pharmacy services. Consumers and patients may not all require the current retail-focussed footprint and template. While there is some evidence of specialised pharmacy care, the pharmacy landscape is dominated by a universal overarching retail-located model.How can we better engage with patients and consumers?
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  2.  The power of the internet
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    The internet, supported by the adoption of smart devices, is being widely adopted for business and social communications, as well as service delivery. Pharmacy needs to harness the power of the internet and ensure that it maintains a voice in the dissemination of information on medicines and health products.Pharmacy may also need to consider how it can utilise the power of the internet for better and more efficient delivery of products and services to its patients and consumers, in particular chronic patients.
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  3. Compliance and patient management
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    Technology is readily available to assist community pharmacy to support patients with compliance and general patient management. While this goes beyond the current “supply-focussed” approach, it is critical to patient–carer engagement and management.
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  4. Cost and business management
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    Pharmacy is constantly under review. Few sectors face the same constant pressure for change than that which is constantly being exerted on community pharmacy.
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    Whether the change driver is global trends in pharmaceuticals, cost pressures on the PBS (or Government expenditure generally), or the disruptive impact of new supply channels or alternate providers, pharmacy will need to respond.

Community pharmacy will need to use innovation and technology to reduce the effective cost of supply and better manage the supply chain. Such change will require better communication between the various stakeholders (including the Federal Government) and revolutionary improvement in the pharmacy supply chain and in business management.
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Take-Away Message

How are you innovating or using technology in your pharmacy?

The key message is that pharmacy needs to innovate to create and maintain a sustainable business and community service. Perhaps you need to lead by example?

We may all have many ideas … but the time is now for execution and implementation.
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What do you think about this topic? Email me your comments fsirianni@medici.com.au or call Medici Capital on (03) 9853 7933 for further information or to discuss the results.

Frank Sirianni can be contacted at Medici Capital, Level 10, 52 Collins Street, Melbourne VIC 3000 or by email at office@medici.com.au.

Medici Capital, industry leaders in pharmacy valuation, finance & management consulting. Helping pharmacists achieve their goals. medici.com.au.

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