Trends in pharmacy automation
By 2024, the global pharmacy automation market will reach nearly $ 8 billion. Automation is needed in central pharmacies in large part due to the stress caused by COVID-19. In operations, 70% of hospital pharmacists said they had taken on new professional responsibilities during the pandemic. This meant filling hospitals’ gaps in hand sanitizers, sanitizers and drugs.
Hospitals have also changed drug use guidelines to better support COVID-19 treatment and investigational drug studies. The implementation of preventive measures such as physical distancing and the provision of PPE increased the costs for the pharmacy. Meanwhile, declining elective procedures and new prescriptions have resulted in lower revenues, a dangerous combination for any business that wants its doors to remain open.
With costs so high, pharmacists need to know where they are investing their money. Investing in the right people is difficult today. Last May, 80% of pharmacies had difficulty filling vacant positions. The most common vacancies were for pharmacy technician (90%) and front-line clerk (60%). Both of these positions have faced extreme exhaustion thanks to the pandemic. They are also not paid as well as other jobs in the pharmacy, although salaries have increased recently.
The problem is, these jobs are so stressed that workers have abandoned the profession in favor of greener pastures. This exodus exists throughout the health industry; more than 6.5 million healthcare workers will leave by 2026. Only 2 million new workers will fill their places during the same period. The rest of this work will have to be automated.
How could automation in pharmacy technology help staff shortages? An example of pharmacy automation includes an automated dispensing system. An automated dispensary could take nearly 6 times more drugs per hour than a pharmacy technician (700 versus 120). Meanwhile, the average cost of operating a dispensary system is $ 12 an hour, significantly less than the average salary of $ 18 received by pharmacy technicians. The machines could also sort, count and package pills at any scale, eliminating the most redundant tasks for the pharmacy technicians who remain.
Another big problem facing central pharmacies is the shortage of drugs. Even before the pandemic, drug shortages were the number one problem for hospital pharmacies. In 2020, 86% of hospitals reported even worse shortages of the drugs they need. Over 60% face shortages of more than 10 drugs. Missing drugs are essential for surgery and human health, including, but not limited to albuterol inhalers, anesthetics, sedatives, and corticosteroids.
Automation can’t solve supply shortages, but inventory tracking technology could allow pharmacies to make better use of what they already have. 16% of hospital pharmacy inventory is wasted until expiration. First-in-first-out drug delivery limits this problem. Locating and disposing of recalled lots is also an important task facilitated by inventory tracking. This tracking can also help keep tabs on the movement of controlled substances and ensure they are not being abused. Pharmacy automation can keep hospitals open in the post-pandemic years.