Barbara Giacomelli on Pharmacy Advancement through Technology

By Barbara Giacomelli posted 05-09-2016 14:11


Pharmacy Advancement through Technology


Barbara Giacomelli

With health care reform it is important to have a strategy for pharmacy practice.  The principles to guide pharmacy practice include essential elements for pharmacy services, the role of technicians, implementing change and managing challenges and the use of technology.  Technology includes information systems and automation for inventory management and medication dispensing.  Efficiency and improved patient care services can be achieved with technology. 

The use of technology and automation to support pharmacy dates back to the 1970s.  Technology helps the pharmacist provide efficient and accurate patient care.  Historically the penetration of technology has been greater in ambulatory settings than in hospitals.1 Barriers to technology adoption in healthcare organizations include: strategy, cultural, financial, competing priorities and technological limitations.  Financial challenges go beyond hardware and software costs.  They include resource costs to implement and maintain systems, including training.  Having a vision on how technology will improve pharmacy practice is helpful and important. 

EHRs continue to advance in functionality and integration but there are challenges.  Staying current with upgrades and interfaces can be costly and a resource drain.  Also integration with other software programs is desirable and important to maximize functionality and eliminate redundancy.  Adding to the complexity are the ongoing mergers between healthcare organization and also technology vendors.  With each merger decisions need to be made and a plan developed related to standardization and consolidation. 

Adoption of automated dispensing cabinets (ADCs) in patient care areas is almost 100% in healthcare organizations but this doesn’t mean that all medication storage areas outside the pharmacy have ADCs.  Manual tracking floor stock medications still occurs and should be closely evaluated because manual processes reduce pharmacy’s ability to focus on patient care activities and make drug accountability more difficult.  Pharmacy automation to track inventory, prepare IVs, compound medications, repackage bulk products and automate dispensing is not as commonly used in pharmacy practice as ADCs. 

Embracing these technologies enables pharmacists and technicians to focus on patient care activities. Having realistic expectations for the financial return on the investment and a plan to overcome other barriers is essential to acceptance of technology and recognizing its value in advancing pharmacy practice. Benefits of pharmacy technology include improving workflow; data access, drug accountability and quality.  


So why aren’t adoption rates higher?  Provide your thoughts below!




Siska, MH and Tribble, DA. “Opportunities and challenges related to technology in supporting optimal pharmacy practice models in hospitals and health systems.” AmJHealth-SystPharm. 2011; 68;1116-26.




11-19-2016 11:01

Hi Renato,

In the facilities I have managed, informatics and automation integration have been key to departmental success.  I strongly agree with you that the majority of pharmacists are slow to adapt or see how proper utilization will allow more time to focus on direct patient care.



11-14-2016 18:00

I have been involved in pharmacy informatics for 30 years.  I have also been married to a clinical pharmacist for almost the same time.   Between the two of us, we are the two different ends of the informatics spectrum.  I am the early adopter, looking for technology that can improve productivity and outcomes.  My wife is a late technology adopter only changing when absolutely necessary.   What I have found is that there are a lot more pharmacists like my wife than me.  I think we have a choice in health system informatics.. Lead or Follow.  If most practitioners are comfortable following, then change will happen slowly.