Tiene Bauters, PharmD PhD, Pharmacy Department, Ghent University Hospital in Belgium, offers her take on what’s hot on the horizon for hospital pharmacy in 2024.
We have just stepped into a new year, and it is already clear that the pharmacy landscape is set to experience significant innovations and challenges over the coming weeks and months. These will undoubtedly present great opportunities for hospital pharmacists and their teams.
Precision medicine – or personalised medicine – is a rapidly evolving area in pharmacy and one which could have a huge potential impact on healthcare in general.
By using patient-specific information, precision medicine enables optimised drug selection, dosing and therapeutic drug monitoring.
Over the last decade, precision medicine has seen enormous progress in oncology, with the overall goal of identifying and administering optimal treatment to the right patient at the right dose and at the right time to maximise survival and quality of life.
The era of ‘one-size-fits-all’ drugs is gradually fading. Genetic tests pinpointing mutations that drive tumour growth make it possible to develop customised drugs that target cancers specifically.
Pharmacists are increasingly playing an integral role in understanding and interpreting genetic data and in collaboration with other healthcare providers, we are armed to tailor drug therapy to maximise efficacies and minimise adverse events.
Artificial intelligence in hospital pharmacy
Next on the list is artificial intelligence (AI), which has evolved dramatically as a transformative technology in many medical fields including pharmacy.
These technologies have impacted pharmacy practice by streamlining specific tasks such as inventory management and by providing tools and algorithmic systems that can assist us in making accurate and evidence-based decisions.
AI is particularly useful in predicting and detecting adverse drug reactions, providing dose recommendations and assisting in drug interaction checks, analysing data for personalised treatment plans and monitoring to enhance medication adherence.
Additionally, AI has been used in drug discovery processes to design new molecules and predict their therapeutic properties, thereby optimising new drug candidates faster and more efficiently.
AI models are also involved in manufacturing processes – by examining and monitoring datasets and optimising production processes – to boost efficiencies and minimise waste.
Although promising, we must also be aware that many challenges in using AI in pharmacy practice remain, such as issues around data privacy and security, bias in data collection used to train AI models and data integration in systems.
Automation and robotics
The next key items are undoubtedly automation and robotic technologies. Uptake to enhance efficiency and streamline pharmacy operations is becoming increasingly common.
Benefits are evident both in dispensing (for example, to count pills, label prescription vials, store drugs and integrate bar coding through automated dispensing cabinets, automated inventory management systems and pharmacy carousels) and in preparation (by automated workflow systems and compounding robotics for intravenous drugs).
Further uses include automating patient medication records, prescription recording applications and seamless sharing of health records.
The ultimate goal of using these tools is to help deliver pharmaceutical care in a safe, effective and cost-efficient manner, so pharmacists and pharmacy technicians can spend more time on patient-centred activities.
Telepharmacy and virtual care
Telepharmacy and virtual care are on the rise. They have become popular and convenient ways for some patients – especially for those in rural regions or those who cannot visit a pharmacy in person – to get information remotely while enabling pharmacists to oversee and monitor these patients efficiently and effectively.
The expanding roles of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians
I must mention the expanding role of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians in recent years and the exciting evolution of their roles and career opportunities.
As part of this extended role, pharmacists now commonly offer immunisations and undertake health care screenings and medicines management services.
In many countries, the number of training programmes and professional associations for pharmacy technicians are on the rise, enabling them to take on greater responsibilities and learn new skills such as product verification, medication therapy management, taking medication histories and medicines reconciliation.
Pharmacists‘ emotional wellbeing
Last but not least, due to the demanding nature of our profession, self-care must be prioritised to ensure our wellbeing. Although burnout can affect anyone, individuals in high-stress professions or environments are usually the most affected.
A recent systematic review by Dee et al found that 51% of pharmacists had experienced burnout. Self-care and effective time management are therefore paramount.
By setting boundaries, delegating when possible and seeking support, taking time off when feeling overwhelmed, and adapting lifestyles to reduce stress as much as possible, we can hope to prevent or alleviate burnout.
In conclusion, we can see that pharmacy in 2024 will be filled with opportunities that we should embrace to help us continue to shape the future of our profession.