If the pharmacy industry can finally solve the riddle of how to serve a patient's need for personal consultation (now vastly underserved) while demanding more and more of the pharmacist's time, then we will enter the next stage of medication management.

As I wrote earlier, robot dispensing of medications holds great promise to free up the pharmacist to actually do what he/she is trained for: medication management (known in the biz as MTM, short for Medication Therapy Management ), inoculations, and training patients to better manage their disease states.

It is amazing that students spend six years in training for disease and medication management but when introduced to the business world none of what the newly graduated can offer is actually used.

Can pharmacists reduce the costs of health care by catching provider errors? Yes.

Can pharmacists reduce hospitalizations, and emergency room use through Medication Therapy Management, increasing adherence to medication use? Yes, again.

Could pharmacists save doctors time (and money) by being allowed to make therapeutic substitution when the insurance denies certain claims? Of course.

These are all proven. MTM is even now included within Medicare reimbursement to providers. There is really only one missing piece: Time.

No one has the time to actually talk to patients. No one has the time to give vaccinations. The only thing I have time for is to dispense one prescription a minute. Barely. Even with robot use, as in Rite Aid and Walgreens, time is still a precious commodity. There are too many silly regulations by state boards that waste a pharmacist's time (make sure that you sign every single line of that 222 form! And date that invoice that is already dated. And put that address on the line that the doctor was supposed to put in even though it's already in the computer record.)

The pharmacy of the future holds great promise. I see technicians doing pretty much what pharmacists do now, possibly even including the verification stage of prescription processing. Technicians aren't going away, even in a robot driven world. They will always be needed. And pharmacists too will be needed, just differently, to be used instead as a real member of the health-care team, instead of as an ancillary player. We simply have too much to offer to be ignored for much longer.


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