Experts Discuss the Future of Pharmacy Technicians Across the World

In a panel, pharmacy technicians discuss the future of pharmacy technicians in United States, Portugal, and the United Kingdom.

Q: What does the future hold for the role of pharmacy technicians?

João José Joaquim: Big questions, important questions, just let me hit something about the previous question because I said we have a low level of automation in community pharmacists, but I am thinking about big technology, big machines. We have also a very good system for barcoding, if you need to know something about a medicine taken by a patient, we can do that, we can get that from the database, the pharmacy technicians and pharmacists at this moment, they have the possibility to shake interactions in the system. At this level, it's very developed that community pharmacies, but not big machines, in community pharmacies, as I see, for example, in Denmark.

For the future, I think we have to carry on with our efforts. To be more precise for the way that we want to develop the profession. I think we have developed a lot in the last 20 years. I am a pharmacy technician from 25 years ago, and it's completely different, the things that we that I faced when I was a young pharmacy technician. Now I work in a school full time, but I have more or less the picture of our profession, we are trying also to develop the profession for other areas for industry, and control quality and production. In radiopharmacy, we have also the possibility for our professionals. For our pharmacy technicians, we have pharmacy technicians that prepare radiopharmaceuticals and do quality control, and we are looking for other opportunities in the big companies and big industry that tasks like pharmacovigilance.

Like clinical trials, we have already some pharmacy technicians that develop some skills after the graduation, and we are looking for new markets for our profession. The basis is always community, in hospital, it start at the hospital level in the heydays is of the last century. The profession developed there in the in the hospital pharmacies, but now we grow in communities, pharmacies. I think we have, I hope because it's a political decision, a big expectation, because we don't have pharmacy technicians in primary care system in Portugal. I think it's very important. It's one of our tasks at this moment that the association looking with our Ministry of Health, because the lack of professionals of pharmacy, the specialists of drugs in the primary care. I think it's a very important problem because we are not in contact with the patients, with the public that go to, and we can see every day at the community pharmacist, big mistakes made by prescriptions. Pharmacy and pharmacy technicians and pharmacists can play a very important role, also, at this level, but it's something for the future that we are looking for the future trying to develop the profession for other activities in the same sector, but for other possibilities of employment.

Samantha Quaye: I think I'm really passionate and optimistic about the future roles for pharmacy technicians. I think that lots of barriers are being broken. I think there's opportunity for us to expand our roles, and also when we think about the fact that there is a global health care workforce crisis. There's a shortage of people to go around in all the different roles. Everyone's role potentially can change and evolve, and so that skill mix will change. I think one thing I would say about our profession is that we are adaptable, and we are open to taking on new things. That's been shown just from what João José has said about the whole way that things have evolved over the last 20-plus years. I think, even in the last 5 years, there have been great advances, and so there are really great opportunities that are being opened up and that's from kind of public health and prevention of illness to safety netting and putting the treatment of condition in whatever sphere that might be an across all sectors. So hopefully in Portugal, they will get that in primary care, and here, we will get that across all of the sectors as well.

Tiffany Kofroth: Here, the technician role is always advancing. I will say that throughout my tenure as a technician, 20-plus years, almost 25 years, I think back on the roles that I've played, for not only my community, but nationwide. If I think back to it, there's so many diverse roles that are out there for the pharmacy technician, and I think each role will always evolve. It's always going to see what else can a pharmacy technician do, and really push that limit, which is a fabulous thing. If you think about it, you have the technicians that have been in the field for a really long time and maybe have the knowledge almost as to what a pharmacist has because they've been in that certain setting for that long amount of time. They are really the pioneers or the people that really started in the career when it was booming.

I think that there's going to be a lot more specialty certifications, a lot more aspects of hospital, long-term care, outpatient, or retail setting that the technicians are going to expand into because they already have that base of medication, health care, calculations, all of those things are already in our role. It's just seeing what other medical niches, per se, that pharmacy technicians can work in and excel. We have already 10-plus specialty certifications that are national certifications for pharmacy technicians, and I can just see that just ever expanding. We survey our technicians at least every 2 years, if I remember so, on the national perspective and ask them what other things they are involved in, and how can we better serve the community. I think that is going to be an ever-changing role that’s going to happen and it’s just going to evolve with time. It’s going to be really, really great to showcase them as part of that health care team, which is really important. They are just as important as your pharmacists, just as important as your doctor. They provide that care that is needed. I think that’s how the role is going to evolve.