Digital Health CRC to put focus on future of pharmacy

Pharmacists are being encouraged to look at the potential benefits digital technology will bring to the profession in the coming years.

Professor Libby Roughead, from UniSA’s School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences, has been appointed to lead the newly announced Digital Health Cooperative Research Centre’s (CRC) research into adverse drug reactions and medication management. She told Australian Pharmacist the centre provided the pharmaceutical profession with an opportunity to expand its role within the health system.

‘It will help the profession evolve,’ she said. ‘If robotic dispensing replaces dispensing, and artificial intelligence (AI) takes over simple counselling, then the profession itself will need to evolve.

‘This gives us an opportunity to do some of the research needed for that evolution.’

Despite concerns that AI could be used to carry out some of the work pharmacists have traditionally done, Professor Roughead urged her peers not to fear technology.

‘Pharmacists should be asking the questions about what will AI assist them with? Not how will AI replace me? And what will their job look like if they don’t need to do the technical parts any more,’ she said.

While the development of digital solutions could reshape the role of the pharmacist in the community and hospital settings, Professor Roughead said the Digital Health CRC has the potential to create new career paths for the profession.

‘It will be quite the opportunity for pharmacists to become researchers themselves.

‘There’s going to be a lot of research funding for PhD students and others, and I think there are really big opportunities for pharmacists to create their own jobs of the future, which might be quite different to the way they’re practising today,’ she said.

Announcing the launch of the Digital Health CRC on 13 April, Assistant Minister for Science, Jobs and Innovation, Zed Seselja said the Federal Government will invest $55 million into the centre through its CRC program, with more than $200 million in funding to be made available over the next seven years.

Professor Roughead said the funding would enable pharmacists to redefine their roles within the health system and play a key role in the development of solutions that could help them to manage and monitor patients’ medication use more effectively.

‘One of the things that is going to be really important is that pharmacists are at the table and saying what they need. [They need to articulate] what kind of digital solutions would help them to become more transparent and integrated members of the healthcare system,’ she said.