Pharmacy workforce planning has been relatively static for many decades. However, like all industries, health care is exposed to potentially disruptive technological changes. Automated dispensing systems have been available to pharmacy for over a decade and have been applied to a range of repetitive technical processes which are at risk of error, including record keeping, item selection, labeling and dose packing. To date, most applications of this technology have been at the local level, such as hospital pharmacies or single-site community pharmacies. However, widespread implementation of a more centralized automated dispensing model, such as the ‘hub and spoke’ model currently being debated in the United Kingdom, could cause a ‘technology shock,’ delivering industry-wide efficiencies, improving medication accessibility and lowering costs to consumers and funding agencies. Some of pharmacists' historical roles may be made redundant, and new roles may be created, decoupling pharmacists to a certain extent from the dispensing and supply process. It may also create an additional opportunity for pharmacists to be acknowledged and renumerated for professional services that extend beyond the dispensary. Such a change would have significant implications for the organization and funding of community pharmacy services as well as pharmacy workforce planning. This paper discusses the prospect of centralized automated dispensing systems and how this may impact on the pharmacy workforce. It concludes that more work needs to be done in the realm of pharmacy workforce planning to ensure that the introduction of any new technology delivers optimal outcomes to consumers, insurers and the pharmacy workforce.
- Community pharmacy