Future Trends Affecting Pharmacy Practice

Pharmacy Times, February 2016 Autoimmune Disorders, Volume 82, Issue 2

As we struggle to allow pharmacists to practice at the top of their license, the issues of professionalism and ethics will become more critical.

I have always been interested in the science of futurism. This interest started when I was a pharmacy director. Someone once told me that you should always be interested in the future because you will spend the rest of your life there. Positioning my department for the future was my concern. If I could understand the forces that were producing changes in health care and pharmacy, I could prepare my department to take advantage of new opportunities as they emerged.

A good resource, that helps pharmacy directors gain insight on how health care and pharmacy may change is the annual Pharmacy Forecast published by ASHP Research and Education Foundation, with Pharmacy Forecast 2016-2020 just released.1 Although its focus is health-system pharmacy, any pharmacy leader would benefit from reviewing it and thinking about the strategic recommendations for practice leaders. The 8 topics (Table) selected for this fourth edition provide insightful, strategic recommendations for practice leaders, which can be a useful tool for preparing yourself and your pharmacy practice for the future. No matter where you practice pharmacy, each of these domains is impacting your practice setting at some level.

Undoubtedly, Pharmacy Forecast would have been a helpful resource to me when I was a pharmacy director. With this resource, I would have been able to keep abreast of the literature on the future of pharmacy and health care, as well as test my perspective against that of the panelists, thereby making me feel more comfortable with my strategic decisions. This document could do the same for you.

One impression revealed by the latest Pharmacy Forecast is that health care payment reform will have far-reaching effects on the health care system. Payment reform will affect all areas of pharmacy practice. Reviewing the section titled “Health Care Delivery and Financing” can help you think about the strategic decisions you might have to make personally or for your program to be prepared for the reimbursement changes coming.

The domain on ethics suggests that pharmacists and other health professionals will give more attention to issues related to professional autonomy and ethics. As we struggle to allow pharmacists to practice at the top of their license, the issues of professionalism and ethics will become more critical— another reason why Pharmacy Forecast 2016-2020 will be valuable to you.

Pharmacy Forecast will help you become more of a pharmacist futurist, and the future should be important to you because, soon, you will be practicing there.

Mr. Eckel is professor emeritus at the Eshelman School of Pharmacy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is also emeritus executive director of the North Carolina Association of Pharmacists. A lifelong advocate for the profession of pharmacy, Mr. Eckel has lectured on pharmacy issues and trends in all 50 states and has traveled to 6 continents to promote and educate audiences on the role of the pharmacist.


  • Zellmer WA, ed. Pharmacy forecast 2016-2010: strategic planning advice for pharmacy departments in hospitals and health systems. American Society of Health-System Pharmacists Foundation website. ashpfoundation.org/pharmacyforecast. Published December 2015. Accessed December 16, 2015.