Growth in Artificial Intelligence Offers Opportunity for Health-System Pharmacy
Annual forecast of pharmacy industry trends addresses impact of COVID-19 pandemic, need for a diverse healthcare workforce, and cybersecurity concerns
The use of artificial intelligence (AI) will expand in coming years throughout health systems and their pharmacy enterprises, providing numerous opportunities to improve care and care delivery with algorithms supporting many routine tasks and freeing pharmacists to focus on more complex challenges like pharmacogenomic-guided medication use, hospital-at-home, and telehealth, according to the 2023 ASHP/ASHP Foundation Pharmacy Forecast Report that was released at the ASHP Midyear Clinical Meeting & Exhibition in Las Vegas.
“The 2023 Pharmacy Forecast Report recommendations provide clear guidance for pharmacy leaders as they respond to the rapidly evolving healthcare environment,” said ASHP CEO Paul W. Abramowitz, PharmD, ScD (Hon.), FASHP. “The focus on AI, pharmacogenomics, and telehealth will help ensure that pharmacy enterprises are planning for technological advances that will shape healthcare delivery over the next five years and beyond.”
The Pharmacy Forecast advises that key pharmacy staff be trained in AI and recommends that pharmacy leaders help health systems establish priorities, best practices, and long-term maintenance of medication-related AI tools. Health system leaders should know how the models used in developing AI might impact diversity, and they should be prepared to validate and monitor the performance of algorithms to ensure accuracy isn’t compromised over time.
The COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on all levels of the pharmacy workforce and the supply chain is also addressed in the 2023 Pharmacy Forecast. The pandemic resulted in systemic, sustained, and unrelenting pressure on the entire healthcare delivery system and is creating ongoing perilous workforce and supply chain disruptions, according to the consensus of pharmacy leaders who participated in the report.
Pharmacy leaders are poised to support health systems’ efforts to expand access to care and address health disparities and the inequities in patient outcomes that are commonplace among historically marginalized groups, according to the Pharmacy Forecast. Incorporating individual- and community-level social determinants of health data into electronic health records and training pharmacy staff on the appropriate use of the data are among the report’s recommendations for moving from awareness to concrete actions aimed at eliminating health disparities. Other recommendations in the Pharmacy Forecast include expanding recruitment for mental health providers to meet the growing demand for these services in rural communities and offering training to help providers identify and refer potential victims of human trafficking.
The report also notes the role a diverse healthcare workforce plays in improving access and quality of care and recommends health system and pharmacy leaders use innovative strategies to recruit, retain, and develop a diverse pipeline of students, trainees, practitioners, and leaders across healthcare professions.
Other trends identified in the 2023 Pharmacy Forecast as likely to impact the field over the next five years include:
- Half of health systems in the U.S. will have specialized pharmacy staff dedicated to medication management for patients with substance use disorders.
- To combat stress and complexity in many jobs in the health-system pharmacy workforce, leaders should engage with their management teams to ensure that organizations are designed for productive teamwork and support appropriate work-life balance. Health-system leaders should also provide pharmacy technicians, who are responsible for a wide range of crucial functions that support patient care, with ample opportunities for professional growth.
- Following the dramatic increases in COVID-19 vaccine misinformation, state licensing boards are likely to develop and exercise regulations to discipline health professionals who spread medical disinformation.
- Cybersecurity and pharmacy security should be a high priority in strategic planning as health systems rely more on technology, increasing the risks from cyberattacks.
“One of the striking features of the 2023 Forecast Report is its focus on some of the most difficult issues confronting the healthcare system at this time, including disparities, trust in health information, workforce concerns, and cyber security,” Abramowitz said.
Report authors developed the Pharmacy Forecast through a “wisdom of the crowd” process that started with the generation of a list of pressing issues refined by an advisory committee and then fielded as a survey to 388 pharmacy leaders from around the country. Complete responses were submitted by 344 pharmacists representing a variety of leadership roles, hospital sizes, and geographic regions. The report provides wide-ranging insights on topics from providing value, disparities in care, and preparedness to workforce issues. It is published annually to support health systems and pharmacy leaders with strategic planning.
The Pharmacy Forecast published online ahead of print and will appear in print in the Jan. 15, 2023, issue of AJHP. The Pharmacy Forecast report was supported by an unrestricted donation from Omnicell Inc. to the David A. Zilz Leaders for the Future Fund of the ASHP Foundation.
ASHP is the collective voice of pharmacists who serve as patient care providers in hospitals, health systems, ambulatory clinics, and other healthcare settings spanning the full spectrum of medication use. The organization’s more than 60,000 members include pharmacists, student pharmacists, and pharmacy technicians. For 80 years, ASHP has been at the forefront of efforts to improve medication use and enhance patient safety. For more information about the wide array of ASHP activities and the many ways in which pharmacists advance healthcare, visit ASHP’s website, ashp.org, or its consumer website, SafeMedication.com.
About the ASHP Foundation
The ASHP Foundation was established in 1968 by ASHP as a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization. As the philanthropic arm of ASHP, the Foundation shares ASHP's vision that medication use will be optimal, safe, and effective for all people all of the time. Our mission is to support ASHP by advancing the professional practice of pharmacists and the pharmacy workforce by funding research and education that improves health outcomes through optimal, safe, and effective medication use. To learn more about the Foundation’s programs, visit ashpfoundation.org.
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