Computers are a worldwide piece of technology that have assisted many companies in their business. Not only do they better the company by helping with the pace of the workflow, but they help provide information that is needed. A retail pharmacy is one of the best references to use when looking at the assistance in different businesses that computers give. The retail pharmacy is known to contain the most advanced tasks compared to other workplaces, such as a hospital pharmacy. When computers were first introduced, the lives of a pharmacist and pharmacy technicians became much easier and allowed more time to interact with customers. Computers play a very important role in a retail pharmacy and can even be classified as the backbone that holds the pharmacy together.
A pharmacy contains different requirements for this workplace to run smoothly. As many may think it is an easy task to dispense medications to the customer, there are many other requirements that follow along, which computers greatly assist in. In an online article by Ramu Bandameedi, he says, “Computers in pharmacy are used for the information of drug data, records and files, drug management (creating, modifying, adding and deleting data in patient files to generate reports), business details” (Bandameedi). When a prescription is first sent over to the pharmacy from a doctor, various information must be reviewed and entered in the system. Drug data is the most important classification of information because if not taken into consideration, one is taking the risk of dispensing a drug to a customer without knowing interactions that are possible. Before entering the script, the pharmacy team member must know how much of that drug is available. With the magic of a computer, they can simply go in and check the status of its quantity. Before computers, they had to file through papers to find the quantity. Information is now easily updated every day, providing quick answers. Not only do computers hold the quantity, but they also contain information about a certain drug that is very important for the customer that is receiving the medication. This information provides details about what a drug can or cannot interact with and match with a customer’s health records. As drugs are continuously used every day and hundreds of prescriptions are filled, the quantity will eventually start running low. With a simple couple clicks, computers have the ability to order any drug and for any time or day. They can also present which drugs are in greatest demand. Some computers can automatically order more vials of a drug if they notice the low quantity to prevent any issues with running out of stock.
When a customer is filling for the first time at a pharmacy, all information must be entered. A computer has the option to create a profile under the customer’s name and holds different fields of questions that must be answered. This includes their name, address, insurances, allergies, any past medications, etc. Some doctors may prescribe a new medication without knowing if it can cause a serious interaction with other medications they may be on, but the computer will pick up on the interaction and present a warning before dispensing. Computers can hold information that reaches far back into their history and lessens the worries of losing any files. As said in an online article, “Now, technology allows pharmacies to create programs that fully automate a patient’s prescription refill history and check in other prescriptions filled at different pharmacies, giving pharmacists the ability to monitor and better track the patient’s overall health and safety” (Tahmasbi). Now with today’s world of the different vaccines that are administered, the computer keeps track of what they had received in the past and what they are eligible for. Computers are consistently updating customer’s information automatically and have the opportunity to reach out to someone if it notices their prescription is eligible to be refilled or if their script is about to expire. The system will send an automatic request to the doctor for more refills or a renewed script, which greatly takes off some weight from the pharmacist and prevents any problematic situations from occurring in the future when a customer runs out of pills and needs to pick up more. Most retail pharmacies also offer an app that one can download from their computer or even phone, which automatically connects the patient to their account that holds all their active prescriptions. For example, an online article states, “Described as a ‘virtual pillbox,’ MediSafe is a user-friendly app that sends users medication and refill reminders, provides drug interaction warnings, and helps caregivers manage prescriptions for loved ones” (The 10). Computers can send messages directly to this app instead of a customer needing to constantly call the pharmacy to find out information about their medications.
In the past, records of a patient’s prescriptions were either handwritten from the doctor on an index card or even recorded using a system, which was known as the Locato System. Compared to real life now, doctors can send an electronic script that is sent directly to the pharmacist. In a pharmaceutical journal, it states, “Electronic prescribing (EP) systems automate prescribing, supply and administration of medicines, where they have been shown to reduce medication errors and have a major impact on patient safety” (Goundrey-Smith). This also helps pharmacists keep track of prescriptions because when the doctor sends the script over electronically, it is automatically saved in the computer and minimizes the amount of paperwork.
Inside of a pharmacy, hundreds of prescriptions are filled every single day as more are transferred in constantly. Nowadays, one cannot fill a prescription without running it through the computer and checking it in. To first fill the prescription, the medication page and stock bottle of the drug must be scanned. The computer will only let the technician or pharmacist past the check in screen if everything matches. Some drug bottles look almost identical and can easily be mistaken for each other, but computers match the numbers, known as the “NDC”, on the bottle with the NDC on the prescription label. Once the computers see everything matches, they send the prescription off to the pharmacist where they must verify it one last time through the computer. The main purpose of the computer in this role is to reassure the right drug is being dispensed, especially when it comes to different dosages that can easily be mistaken. There are also instances where a drug is out of stock and needs to be ordered, so the computer will automatically reach out to the customer and let them know when it will be back in stock. A computer also picks up on a customer’s first time taking a medication and will automatically print out papers regarding information about the drug and tips one can follow along with, such as when to take that medication and side effects that may follow along with it.
As shown, computers have greatly impacted the speed of filling prescriptions. In an online article revolving around a pharmacist, Kelly Selby, he describes his experience before and after computers were introduced into his pharmacy. It states, “Like most of his colleagues, he used a typewriter to create labels and consulted massive reference books to check for possible adverse interactions and dosage errors. He counted tablets and capsules on a counting tray, poured them into bottles, pasted on the labels, and filed the written prescriptions manually onto the patients’ paper charts” (Staff). Clearly, this had taken a lot of time out of his day and left close to no time with the customers. After computers were introduced, the article states, “Today Selby employs four pharmacists and fills 250 prescriptions per day—20% more than the national average of 191—and is supported by an extensive portfolio of systems from various venders that have dramatically altered his daily workload” (Staff). He speaks for himself, by saying, “Technology has allowed me to cut the time nearly in half that I spend on manual procedures” (Staff). Many pharmacists across the world can greatly relate to this reflection of computers.
As any medication may have extreme side effects or non-agreement with another medication, warnings are presented before a prescription is sold. There are hundreds of customers that use a pharmacy daily, so there is no possible way that a pharmacist can remember what all customer’s past medications have looked like. This is where the computer plays an important role and will remember what that customer has taken. A screen will pop up that forces a pharmacist to notice and relay the message to the customer or else the prescription cannot be sold. Sometimes it is possible to bypass a warning, but computers do provide another option to prevent any issues. In an online article from Dr. Grissinger, “Most computer systems allow a report of bypassed alerts to be printed for pharmacist review each day” (Grissinger). Not only is this efficient for the pharmacy members, but it also makes the customers feel safe knowing that they are notified about something that can seriously harm them. Computers are known to be the backbone of a retail pharmacy and contain precious information that is needed and used every single day. With the use of computers, an astronomical amount of stress and workload is lifted off the shoulders of the pharmacy team members. This now allows more time for a pharmacist to interact with their customers and assure them that they are safe using their pharmacy. There are many more jobs a computer performs, but these are the main and most common tasks completed in a retail pharmacy.
Bandameedi, Ramu. “Provenance of Computers in Pharmacy.” OMICS International, OMICS International, 3 Feb. 2016, https://www.omicsonline.org/open-access/provenance-of-computers-in-pharmacy-2167-065X-1000153.php?aid=67407.
Goundrey-Smith, Stephen. (2021, March 22). Examining the role of New Technology in pharmacy: Now and in the future. The Pharmaceutical Journal. Retrieved November 6, 2021, from https://pharmaceutical-journal.com/article/news/examining-the-role-of-new-technology-in-pharmacy-now-and-in-the-future.
Staff. (2007, February 20). Pharmacy and Technology. U.S. Pharmacist – The Leading Journal in Pharmacy. Retrieved November 7, 2021, from https://www.uspharmacist.com/article/pharmacy-and-technology.
Tahmasbi, Vivian, PharmD. “4 Important Technology Advancements in Pharmacy.” Injured Workers Pharmacy, 22 July 2019, https://www.iwpharmacy.com/blog/4-important-technology-advancements-in-pharmacy.
The 10 best medication reminder apps. Online Doctor. (2021, April 10). Retrieved November 7, 2021, from https://www.onlinedoctor.com/best-medicine-reminder-apps/.