Monday, November 12, 2018

Staying Relevant in a Digital Age

At its roots, community pharmacy is a customer service field. A patient comes to a pharmacy with a prescription for the product that they need, the pharmacy prepares and packages the product, and the patient pays for the product and services. Although medications to treat or prevent disease are often valued higher than the products at a clothing store or fast food restaurant, buyers are still looking for the same things - convenience and efficiency.

Recent enhancements in automation and technology in the pharmacy field have been aimed to improve the ease of filling prescriptions. PopRx was the first application to make an appearance on the Canadian pharmacy technology scene in 2015.1 It is an app that allows people to send a picture of their prescription or medication vial to their local pharmacy and have the medication delivered to them on the same day. Other technologies have since been developed to improve accessibility. Pharmabox is an automated kiosk that sells personal care items and over-the-counter (OTC) medications that can be found in pharmacies.2

With technology disrupting the pharmacy landscape, pharmacists must come up with ways to stay relevant and avoid becoming overshadowed by the convenience of applications and automated machines. Here are thoughts on how pharmacists can add value to their services in a way that machines can't.

1. Remember our other products
Medications are not the only products sold in the pharmacy. Yes, medication is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of pharmacy, but our products go beyond technical services. Pharmacists can use their clinical knowledge to provide comprehensive medication reviews, disease screening and education, chronic disease management, smoking cessation consultations, and much more. Our cognitive services can never be replaced by technology. Instead we can use technology to grow these services, such as in the case of point-of-care testing or pharmacogenomic testing.

2. Filter information
In 2013, more than 50% of Canadians reported that they used Google searches to research or self-diagnose their symptoms.3 This number is only expected to be higher today with the widespread use of cell phones and social media. Although access to all of this information by means of technology is empowering for the public, it doesn't mean all of the information is true. In the pharmacy, I often field questions from patients asking if the latest health trends in the news or on the internet actually work or if we sell a product that Google recommended they try for their symptoms. Pharmacists shouldn't be discouraging people from using technology to research their health answers, but we should be encouraging them to let us help them decide what's factual and what's inaccurate.

3. Provide a personalized experience
Computers or automated services can't compete with the experience of face-to-face interaction. Pharmacists can provide patients with clinical services that are tailored to their needs, instead of reciting a laundry list of side effects or irrelevant information about a drug or disease that ultimately doesn't help the patient with decision-making. It's not just about having all the information, but it's also about knowing how to apply it to the patient that's in front of you. 

Having the knowledge and expertise to filter information and provide individualized clinical services for our patients is how the pharmacy profession will stay afloat amidst the rise of technology.


1.     Hardy, Ian. (2015, November 24). PopRx, the "Uber of prescriptions" launches in Toronto. Accessed on October 22, 2018:
2.     Harman, Megan. (2018, October 3). Automated Drugstore Concept 'Pharmabox' Aims to Disrupt Canadian Retailing. Accessed on October 22, 2018:
3.     Oliveira, Michael. (2013, July 31). More than half of Canadians use 'doctor Google' to self-diagnose. Accessed on October 22, 2018: