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Australian Journal of Pharmacy : March 2005
information technology Technology in pharmacy today and beyond Whether you believe pharmacy has been quick or slow to embrace new information management technologies, one thing is certain: there’s still much more that can be done.MATTHEW ETON explores pharmacy’s status quo in their use of information management tools and considers what the future might hold T HE automation technology deployed in Australian pharmacies today reflects the diverse mix of pharmacy loca- tions and the orientation of pharmacy owners. While some embrace new facilities with a view to improved efficiencies, many still do not comprehend the benefits they could achieve through current automation and information management tools. Every profession faces the same chal- lenge—the current way works, why change it? Yet without change, there is no progress. Today, some pharmacies have not yet installed a line for their fax (or a fax machine at all)—yet we are close to the end of the useful life of fax machines. Why? Well, does a pharmacy benefit from the installation of a fax line or is a fax needed mainly for the benefit of others? To some extent, sticking to older meth- ods reflects a normal human resistance to change and the threat of the unknown. And there’s the cost to consider. But it also shows that the benefits of updating tech- nology are simply not well communicated to many pharmacists. If there is a clear identification of the benefits that flow from advances in tech- nology, then the main beneficiaries become apparent and costs can be allo- cated appropriately. And what is wrong with using older, proven technology? Well, older facilities can restrict an ability to improve processes and build a stronger business. Modern systems can be an aid in building revenues or delivering new revenue streams by providing better services to customers. Older systems can also limit an ability to monitor products, prices, margins and trends to ensure maximum retail perfor- mance and profitability. Newer automation tools can also just make life easier and more secure with sim- 196 ? THE AUSTRALIAN JOURNAL OF PHARMACY VOL.86 MARCH 2005 plified ordering, integrated point of sale and dispensing, online PBS claiming, stock management and much, much more. When considering the cost of any new facility, the potential for time saving will be a major factor. Think about what your time is worth. Whether the time is used for profitable business development or for improved lifestyle, it has a real value. The following represents the status quo in the way in which pharmacy commonly utilises information management tools. EFTPOS The volume and percentage of cashless transactions is growing. The result is an increasing load on the generally old tech- nology in current EFTPOS machines, the need for separate phone lines to support them and generally a 20 second or more delay for the transaction to be completed. EFTPOS has been a real advance in