Future-evolving roles in the Pharmacy workforce

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The pharmacy industry plays a central role in community, primary health care.  The Department of Health estimates 300 million prescriptions will be dispensed by Australian pharmacies in 2016-17.


In the past ten years, the traditional pharmacy model has been challenged by discount pharmacies and supermarkets – with promotions to get customers, ‘franchising as a business model and big-box discounts’.

Pharmacy workforce profile

In 2014, there were 28,751 registered pharmacists and 22,500 were employed in the pharmacy field.  6 in 10 (59%) of these people were women, and 1/6 (16%) were 55 years or older in age.

There are key considerations regarding the current workforce profile coupled with the influx of graduates and the impending loss of 16% of workforce due to retirement.

Monash University’s Project Pharmacist of the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaecutical Sciences and the Australian Pharmacy Leaders Forum led a Workforce Summit on these issues.

The Summit participants prioritised the topics and resolved the five most important to be:

  1. Embracing potential opportunities by demographic driven demand, new roles and services
  1. Overcoming barriers for the demand of pharmacists in health care, including remuneration, career development, and acknowledgment.
  1. Identifying workloads to boost the tasks pharmacists can do to utilise their expertise
  1. Sustaining the quality of graduates with a levelled supply for future-evolving roles
  1. The availability of internship, supervision, mentoring and guidance.

Let’s focus on #4, future-evolving roles in the pharmacy industry, for a moment.

How digital technologies will impact pharmacists

Pharmacies are now dependent on patient-centred, health solutions that go beyond the traditional dispensary.

The discount pharmacy model coupled with upcoming technological changes will continue to shape the industry.  It is important to be at the forefront of automation and systemisation, changing the traditional pharmacist role, as well as understanding emerging models like the Health Destination Pharmacy.

Kristin Michaels, CEO of the Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia said pharmacy would have to evolve as the industry prepares for the digitalised healthcare system.

“We expect the role of the pharmacy workforce to evolve and this will accelerate with the introduction of electronic medication management systems and electronic medical records,” she says.

Michaels believes federal and state governments will take notice due to the potential impact on health budgets.

“New electronic systems could pave the way for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to have more time for bedside consultations, with other health professionals, and to ensure the best decisions are made about patient medication.”

As we can see, there’s a real need for talent to become very flexible: to offer the best care to patients and take on a more clinical role, as those patients get older.

With evidence of current workforce needs and gaps, perhaps now is the time to build a picture of the future workforce with tech savvy capabilities, working with customers as the centre of care, and exploring new models that make a difference.

If you would like to know more about workforce planning and development strategies for your organisation or industry, please contact Wendy Perry at wendy@wb.switchstartscale.com.au.

January 2016

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