Artificial Intelligence and Pharmacy Practice

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Last week’s Management Tip discussed pharmacists’ and pharmacy managers’ roles in accepting and leveraging HIT. This week, we examine another facet of technology; specifically, artificial intelligence (AI). AI was once the lore of science fiction books, television and movies. However, AI has become a more prominent part of everyday life, not to mention health care. “Lower forms” of AI are now part of everyday life and include such items as voice recognition that enables digital assistants, to video gaming, macros and shortcuts in personal computer/tablet use, and so on. In fact, as a machine/device grows in capability, we no longer refer to it as being “artificial” intelligence, and this is known as the “AI effect”.

Flynn examined artificial intelligence in pharmacy practice, and much as was discussed in last week’s Management Tip, he described the necessity of embracing AI to enhance practice, rather than fear it will take away jobs.1 As is often the case with technology, jobs are usually enhanced or evolved, not replaced. AI might be among the more salient factors in assisting pharmacists with transitioning their roles. Flynn describes how AI has already begun to and will likely further enable a health care system oriented around value-based payment and assist with establishing learning health systems, as well as other facets of achieving the “quadruple aim” of: enhancing patient experiences, improving population health, reducing costs, and improving the work life of health care providers. Flynn suggests that we find ‘patterns’ of potential use that matter; i.e., those things that can impact all of four of these aims rather than AI used as ‘gadgetry’ aimed to provide remedy of a simple problem. Remedy of a simple problem might not warrant the use of AI; rather, it might warrant the use of something more simply, such as a manager’s own emotional intelligence.

Artificial intelligence has already shown much promise, but it will help pharmacy that much more if we embrace it and discern its greatest potential use. Anecdotal reports of potential AI uses abound, such as facial recognition software that determines the amount of pain a patient is in and thus the recommended treatment modalities. Pharmacists can ‘team up’ with AI to provide optimal care under a more ‘sophisticated’ and pleasant work environment. Managers can help evaluate and identify financial resources to invest in AI strategies that work.

Additional information about Managing the Technology that Supports the Medication Use Process can be found in Pharmacy Management: Essentials for All Practice Settings, 5e. If you or your institution subscribes to AccessPharmacy, use or create your MyAccess Profile to sign-in to Pharmacy Management: Essentials for All Practice Settings, 5e. If your institution does not provide access, ask your medical librarian about subscribing.

1Flynn A. Using artificial intelligence in health-system pharmacy practice: Finding new patterns that matter. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2019;76:622-627.

Shane Desselle

Professor of Social and Behavioral Pharmacy, Touro University California


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Shane Desselle 6 months ago

Where do you see AI fitting into practice in 5 years? In 10 years?