A Growing Industry: Expanding Roles, Shifting Approaches

An overview of the evolving role of pharmacists and how industrywide change has accelerated pharmacy’s growth.

By: David Keenan

Read time: 2 minutes

How industrywide change has accelerated pharmacy’s growth

The cost of prescription drugs increased 4.6% in January 2021, followed by an additional increase of 5.1% in January 20221. As more increases are expected, health systems have started to explore new cost-saving approaches.

The industry’s growth, paired with global impacts, has contributed to accelerated changes in several areas – from day-to-day responsibilities to core operational adjustments.

The Evolving Role of Pharmacists

Before 2020, the role of pharmacists was beginning to change in various practice settings. Specifically for health systems, pharmacists were shifting roles to create closer coordination with patients’ primary care physicians and the community pharmacists to provide a more complete continuum of care.

But the pandemic has shifted the responsibilities of pharmacy teams even further in ways no one could have predicted. Pharmacists’ roles now extend well beyond the traditional duties of simply guiding patients on medications. In fact, the pandemic has prompted pharmacists to adopt some primary care responsibilities.

Industry Challenges

Patients and providers are looking at medical and biopharmaceutical interventions side-by-side in making treatment decisions. However, the current industry structure does not support a truly integrated approach. Pharmacy and medical care are treated separately outside of the doctor’s office, which means delivery and benefits are siloed. These structural barriers will become untenable as pharmaceutical interventions become more complex and costs continue to rise.

The Impact of Technology

The pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation efforts of U.S. health systems, which in turn, is paving the way for smart hospitals across the country. The healthcare industry has been historically slow to execute digital transformation strategies, but according to eMarketer, that all changed when the pandemic hit. Now more than ever, healthcare facilities are under financial pressure to become smart hospitals. In fact, nearly all (92%) healthcare executives worldwide said they believe technology architecture will play an important role in their organization’s ability to generate business value, per a 2021 Accenture study.

Connected care technology implemented across an organization will be integral to how health systems approach patient care and outcomes.

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