Community pharmacists in the UK were warned to get to grips with technology and the digitalisation of healthcare or face being left behind, during the Avicenna conference in northern Cyprus.
Technology is becoming more significant as the NHS continues to place the individual at the centre of their own healthcare, with a strong focus on helping more patients live independently at home rather than clog up under-pressure hospitals.
The conference, held at the Kaya Artemis resort in front of an audience of pharmacists and company executives, provided pharmacy with a timely reminder that technology, such as IT systems, apps and wearable technologies, must be embraced.
“IT and technology is absolutely going to impact your business. Technology will highlight the need for pharmacy to differentiate itself,” said Stephen Lofthouse, head of independents at Alliance Healthcare.
He warned pharmacy it was “being left out of the loop” in relation to mHealth, which includes wearable technologies such as cardio health monitoring and apps, a market he described as “one of the fastest growing areas in healthcare.”
The conference also provided some sound advice for pharmacists to go beyond offering healthcare and get involved in social care too.
Hemant Patel, the secretary of northeast London Local Pharmaceutical Committee, said pharmacists must understand the underlying social causes of poor physical health if it is to play a significant role.
“If a woman comes into the pharmacy with a prescription, you’ll give information about the drug, a little bit about the disease. But what impact do you think that prescription will make to the person’s health?” he said.
“If I told you she is also a victim of domestic violence and asked what impact will your prescription and your tablets make on that person’s life, I’m sure there would be a bit of a pause.
“So what we need to do is bring together the health service and the social care, because unless we start to address issues like domestic violence, alcoholism, debt; those are causes of physical and mental illness.”