Publication Date 01/08/2009         Volume. 1 No. 3   
Information to Pharmacists

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No sex or rock and roll……….just politics and drugs

Chris Wright

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Chris has spent many years in the pharmaceutical industry and is semi-retired.
He has an interest in supply chain procedures, and work flows within community pharmacies, and he provides consultancies around those activities.

Robotic dispensing is definitely coming.
The robots will not go away.
They will change the face of pharmacy.
Label licking and manual pill counting in DAA’s should and will become a thing of the past, despite the current PBS insistence that medicines be only supplied in prescription sized packaging.

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Pharmacists will be freed up to do what they are best trained to do. Thanks to robotics they should be able to cast off the shackles of manual labor and spend more time advising, consulting, monitoring compliance, working with doctors and with the patient. Better medication management will result in better patient care, with less adverse events arising from poor medication compliance by the patient, and fewer hospital admissions. This is not rocket science, but simply better use of a health science degree that provides an attractive outcome.

So the pharmacist is not being painted into a corner at all. The pharmacist will be able to get out of the corner at last and go to the front-of-shop, out from behind the dispensing bench top…….after all, professional and job satisfaction is something we all seek, isn’t it?

From a commercial perspective therefore it is imperative for the pharmacy owners to make sure they can exercise control over the whole process of electronic prescriptions from the doctors' surgery through to the pharmacy, the robot and Medicare Australia. Controlling every aspect of the prescribe-dispense supply chain is the new financial lifeblood of the community pharmacist; click revenue can be captured at various stages along the way with nearly all of it being paid for, one way or another, by Government from the public purse, thanks to robotics. The Pharmacy Guild represents pharmacy owners, so its charter is unambiguously clear - get control.

The move towards robotics should free up pharmacists in line with the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia's goal to change the way in which pharmacists work. The manual work will be more aligned with intellect and the sharing of knowledge for which appropriate consulting fees will quite reasonably be charged. The PSA will have a greater influence over achieving improvements and monitoring of professional performance standards, accreditation, continuing education, and other professional activities.

This will lead to a new round of rationalization and consolidation of pharmacies. With the move to electronic script and associated mail order services the large pharmacy groups like Terry White will expand rapidly and smaller pharmacies will close. With control of the electronic script exchange the Pharmacy Guild's revenues will increase exponentially, the smaller shopping strip pharmacies will disappear, and the much trusted pharmacist will be paid at a rate more aligned with providing knowledge based consulting and advisory services. Only then will the Guild fall silent. Its network of 5,000 shopping strip community pharmacies, so important to the mums and dads and the elderly, so vociferously defended by the Guild on behalf of its members, will no longer be an argument worth voicing once the Banker controls the Treasury.

Pharmacy as we know it today will have changed. The Guild will have managed its way successfully through the transformation to the benefit of its members by securing control over new revenue streams far into the future.

The “But” of course is that there will always be skilled proprietors that will thrive, just as some Bakers and Butchers do. The problem is where will they come from?

There is precious little between old players wanting to get out and the new generation of rather bright volume orientated sausage makers.


Chris Wright.
August 2009.

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