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Editor's Note: What does the future hold for pharmacy?

In his latest column, DSN editor in chief Nigel Maynard sizes up some of the factors that will reshape the pharmacy industry in the coming years.
Nigel F. Maynard
Editorial Director

We all know what they say about the only constant in life (It’s change, by the way). But what’s more important is how people deal with change.

Some brands are great at adapting to disruption. Newspapers come to mind. With the growth of the internet, many have adapted to a new reality.

But change probably doesn’t happen by chance. Brands that successfully adapt to change likely have forward-thinking executives or at least an influential person to push for it.

[Read more: Pharmacy tackles big underlying health obstacles]

It got me thinking: How will pharmacies adapt to the new realities of the retail landscape? How will shifting demographics and customer expectations force pharmacies to modify their offerings? What will future brick-and-mortar pharmacies look like?

Last year, The Medical Futurist published an article titled “The Future of Pharmacies in Three Scenarios.” As patients evolve, “so must pharmacies and pharmacists in the age of digital health,” the Hungarian organization wrote on its website. “They have to redefine their place in medicine as well. A simple drug dispenser will not be enough in a shared and community-based economy.”

According to The Medical Futurist,  the evolution of pharmacies in the digital health era can take one of several pathways.

[Read more: Vaccine Nation: Profiling states leading in vaccination rates]

In one scenario, there could be a boost in medical booths with pharmaceutical offerings. “These refer to booths located in malls or food courts where patients can enter to have a basic health check and talk to a healthcare professional via telecommunication.” Such ventures already have proven to be unsuccessful, the group concluded.

In scenario two, pharmacies could change from the simple drug distribution machines into health consultancies. “This is the more likely scenario in the short-term given that technology and organisational schedules already enable it,” The Medical Futurist said. “Pharmacists will have the opportunity to provide basic care to patients with simple problems and/or provide health management consultations.”

In the final scenario, pharmacies could become specialized points-of-care. This model “depicts pharmacies as specialised point-of-care centres where personalised therapies are made possible,” The Medical Futurist said. “Such centres will 3D-print multiple medications on a single pill, sequence one’s genome and combine such offerings to customise dosages based on one’s genomic data. Automated dispensers can further load the pills onto delivery drones for at-home deliveries.”

Of course, no one knows for sure which of these scenarios is most likely, but one thing is clear, the pharmacy of tomorrow will have a different look than today. And in case you’re concerned that the newer model will be too tech-heavy: The Medical Futurist said the one element that will be an integral part of the pharmacy of the future is the human element. There is no replacement for a friendly, knowledgeable face. 

About the Author


Nigel F. Maynard

Nigel F. Maynarad is editor in chief and editorial director of Drug Store News. 

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