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Information technology has become an increasingly important part of the pharmaceutical profession. Even before computers became common in the workplace, pharmacists studied the potential for computers to improve their work. Pharmaceutical IT helps pharmacists research drug interactions, manage the supply chain and run the business. All of this gives pharmacists more time to help customers.
The IT industry has come up with a number of apps tailored for pharmacists. Apps such as Medscape, the Pharmacist Letter and Epocrates provide details on drug effects and interactions.They're updated more frequently than hard-copy drug advisories, sometimes every day. Some apps are free, while others require a monthly subscription but offer more information. "Drug Topics" magazine says none of the apps substitute for a pharmacist's expert judgment, but the added information can help shape pharmacist decisions.
Records and Files
It's common for pharmacies to store patient histories and prescriptions electronically to make it easier to identify which prescriptions are ready for refills and which doctor to contact about refills. This requires care to ensure that employees enter the information accurately. In Missouri, for example, the state pharmacy board requires pharmacies to keep hard-copy records on file for double-checking. A pharmacist has to verify the accuracy of each prescription in the electronic records.
Controlling the Drugs
Computer technology helps pharmacies better manage their supplies. Bar codes on bottles and containers allow the pharmacy staff to record what drugs and compounds they have on hand and in what quantities. The bar codes also make it easier to confirm that the right product has been delivered, stored, retrieved and dispensed to customers. Several types of robotic, computer-controlled devices for measuring drug doses for customers have come to market at the time of publication.
A pharmacy is a business, and computers help run the business operations efficiently. The computerized checkout system can deliver reports on sales by the day, month and week. That data help track which drugs are in greatest demand, when peak shopping hours are and how efficiently staff handle requests. All of this makes it easier to analyze the pharmacy's financial performance. Computers also make it easier to handle routine business tasks, such as recording, tracking and paying vendor bills.
A graduate of Oberlin College, Fraser Sherman began writing in 1981. Since then he's researched and written newspaper and magazine stories on city government, court cases, business, real estate and finance, the uses of new technologies and film history. Sherman has worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter, and his magazine articles have been published in "Newsweek," "Air & Space," "Backpacker" and "Boys' Life." Sherman is also the author of three film reference books, with a fourth currently under way.
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