Over the past 40 years, information technology has had a major impact on the working lives of millions of people. Many industries have embraced computer technology because of the benefits of automated information processing. These include enabling routine, repetitive and monotonous tasks to be conducted with consistent accuracy; standardisation and consistent use of terminology and nomenclature; and mass customisation (the capacity of information technology to provide services to a large population, yet in a way that can be customised to the individual).
For prescribers and pharmacists, IT can enable the storage of structured patient records, facilitate the electronic prescribing, dispensing and administration of medicines, automate the handling of medicines in the supply chain and provide tools for monitoring the efficacy and safety of medicines in use. IT can therefore improve patient safety, enable professionals to provide high quality care and help patients make the most of their medicines.
Making the most of systems
Pharmacists are already using IT systems to support their daily work and, when considering the IT requirements for emerging working practices, pharmacists should consider what functions could be provided by systems that they already use.
For example, all pharmacies use pharmacy management systems for medication records, dispensing, labelling, ordering and stock control. However, many pharmacies do not use all of the available functionality of their system, for example, modules to handle patient-centred services, such as medicines use reviews or prescription interventions.
Access to patient record systems will assist pharmacists with professional decision-making in providing patient-centred services. For example, the summary care record is now available in many areas, and has been shown to be beneficial for hospital pharmacists for medicines reconciliation. In future, it may be used by community pharmacists, for example with MURs and emergency supplies. As pharmacists deliver more patient-focused services in future, they will increasingly use national and local patient record services to do so.
The power of the internet
The internet has been widely adopted for business and social communications. In future, as internet use becomes universal, there may be an increase in the number of internet pharmacies, and use of the internet to display and disseminate information on medicines and health from pharmacies.
Currently, secure web-based platforms are available from various providers to support enhanced pharmacy services and public health initiatives. The use of these will increase and also web platforms will be used as a communication portal to make information available to pharmacists from other care settings (eg, hospital discharge information)