I’ve been hearing more about how pharmacists’ roles are changing in light of the health care reform. With this change, many believe, including me, pharmacists will spend more time on the floor collaborating with the medical team and directly involved in patient care. If the pharmacist role is expanding, who will they depend on to help with the daily tasks (i.e. dispensing medications, taking prescriptions orders from caregivers, etc.)? All signs point to the pharmacy technician. Recommendations recently published from ASHP’s recent PPMI summit include the imperative for “Successful implementation of new pharmacy practice models, including deploying pharmacy technicians for all distributive functions that do not require clinical judgment.”
Pharmacy technicians will be expected to take on more responsibility. Tasks that were once primarily completed by pharmacists, including dispensing medication, will now be done by pharmacist technicians. As the pharmacy techs handle these duties, it frees the pharmacist to counsel more patients and grow as a key member of the medical team. Pharmacists will focus more on protecting patients at the point of contact, intercepting medication management issues before they become a problem, helping the medical team decide on the best course of therapy to ensure effective treatment, working to improve medication outcomes, and saving the healthcare system billions by advocating cost conscious medication use.
In an interesting December 2010 ASHP Intersection article, Innovating the Pharmacy Technician’s Role, it states:
“Highly trained, skilled technicians are critical elements in a high-functioning pharmacy team,” said ASHP President Diane Ginsburg, M.S., R.Ph., FASHP. “If pharmacists are to achieve their highest calling—direct patient care—we must be able to rely on our technician workforce as our support system.”
Training pharmacy techs with increased skills is becoming a necessity. They most often are the ones that utilize the automated dispensing technology and are supervised by pharmacists. It’s key to empower pharmacy technicians and automated technology can assist with this empowerment. As I am out visiting customers, I have seen firsthand how pharmacy automation technology can give pharmacy technicians confidence as they add new responsibilities to their days – in fact, the pharmacy technicians are most often the experts in the operation of the Talyst systems and have the most feedback and suggestions for me on how to make our products better and patients safer.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, future employment of pharmacy technicians will be a bright one. The profession is expected to increase 31 percent by 2018 compared to 2008.
I’m excited to see how both roles will evolve in the next few years. Have you already seen the changes? Do you think it’s possible to free the pharmacist’s time with the help of the pharmacy technician? Looking forward to your thoughts and discussion!