How has the role of pharmacists evolved over time, and what are some emerging trends in pharmacy practice?

Berry Mathew

How has the role of pharmacists evolved over time, and what are some emerging trends in pharmacy practice?

There are many satisfying and interesting roles within healthcare – but pharmacists must surely rank with the best. This is a role that is not only viewed as high status in modern healthcare, but also one that pays well and is always in demand. As a result, it is an appealing career path for people looking to move into the health sector. 

But how do you become a pharmacist, how has the job changed over time, and what emerging trends are pushing the practice of pharmacy to new heights? 

How do you become a pharmacist?  

As in many healthcare roles, holding the right qualifications is vital. Without these behind you, you will not be able to work as a pharmacist and fulfill your career ambitions. It is essential, therefore, to complete a good-quality academic course that prepares you to work in this field. The online Doctor of Pharmacy program from the University of Findlay is a popular choice and provides a convenient, flexible way to gain the qualifications you need. 

What does a pharmacist do in modern healthcare? 

In simple terms, pharmacists are integral members of healthcare teams who help to optimize levels of patient care. In the modern health sector, this sees them working alongside a number of other healthcare professionals to achieve the best patient outcomes. 

As you would expect, one important responsibility of a pharmacist is being an expert in medicines and in dispensing them. Pharmacists also play a key role in providing information about any medicines they dispense. While this might have been the limit of a pharmacist’s role in the past, this is a position that has changed greatly in recent years. 

How has the role of pharmacists changed throughout history? 

When you compare this role now to how it was 100 years ago, it is clear to see the evolution over time. People in this job once had quite a narrow range of responsibilities, but modern pharmacy practice has branched out into other areas. 

In addition to dispensing medicines and providing key information about them, the pharmacist role now covers: 

  • Formulating medication treatment plans.
  • Coordination of medication management within healthcare systems/teams.
  • Management of medication issues and medication therapy.
  • Assessment of patient health and suggestions of appropriate medication to take. 

This last point is particularly pertinent for modern pharmacy practice. As pressure on healthcare facilities has grown in recent years, we have seen pharmacists get more involved with not only dispensing over-the-counter medication, but also making suggestions on what medication to take based on the information given by patients. 

How else has the pharmacist role evolved over time? 

While people who are experts in dispensing medication have always been key, pharmacists in the past were not held in the same esteem as nurses or physicians. 

As they did not used to get so involved in treatment plans or patient assessment, many saw pharmacists as people who simply counted pills and gave out medication on the instructions of others. This perception has changed considerably in recent years, and pharmacists are now rightfully recognized as having a crucial role within the industry. 

Evolution in where pharmacists work 

The last major evolution in this core healthcare role concerns where pharmacists now work. While this might have been confined to locations such as community pharmacies, clinics or hospitals in the past, modern pharmacists have a much greater choice available to them. 

Qualified pharmacists can now, for example, choose to work in long-term care facilities and ensure that medication is dispensed safely for residents. Another option that shows the evolution in where pharmacists work is ambulatory care. 

This can often be a mobile role that involves meeting with patients who have specific conditions in their own home. When you also factor in the ability to work in pharmacy research and government agencies now, it is clear how far the pharmacist role has come. 

What are the emerging trends pushing pharmacy practice forward? 

The changes that we have seen in the role of pharmacists over time have been driven by a number of factors. But what are the current trends emerging in pharmacy practice to be aware of? 

By far one the most important is technology and automation. This not a surprise when you consider how the latest technologies play a key part in all our lives. This sees pharmacists making greater use of tech to work more efficiently. 

Automated tech, for example, can take over the task of counting out pills for prescriptions and remove this mundane task from human pharmacists. This in turn gives them more time to spend on patient care and to branch out into other areas within healthcare.

What other emerging trends are we seeing in pharmacy practice? 

As in the rest of healthcare, telemedicine is a huge trend in pharmacy practice that is growing all the time. This involves patients being able to talk with pharmacists remotely via internet-connected devices to get the services they need. The convenience and access that telemedicine provides to patients means that it has been incorporated into pharmacy practice in recent years.

Home delivery services are another emerging trend in pharmacy practice. This is something else that offers greater convenience to patients. It can also be more convenient for pharmacists, as they no longer have huge queues of people to dispense medicine to in person! More and more pharmacies are now offering home delivery services to patients as a result. 

Perhaps the last significant emerging trend in this area to know about is personalized medicine. This has seen pharmacists tailor the advice they give around medication much more to the individual patient in the last few years. 

Pharmacy practice and pharmacists have evolved 

As the above demonstrates, the role of pharmacists and the practice of pharmacy have both changed throughout history. This process of evolution is not only necessary but also something that is likely to continue as we move forward.