A Transformed Industry: Pharmacy Automation in the Height of a Pandemic

Covid-19 has had a significant detrimental impact on pharmacies across the country, forcing hospital pharmacists to change their initiatives, take on new and unfamiliar roles, and undergo extreme staffing shortages. Compounding pharmacies were called upon to fill hospital gaps in products like hand sanitizer, medications, and disinfectants, while 86% of hospitals even changed their medication-use guidelines. In January 2020, 75% of pharmacists reported experiencing burnout, which only worsened during the pandemic, and by May 2021, 80% of pharmacies reported struggling to fill open positions.

As a result of the pandemic, pharmacies nationwide also faced a decrease in revenue and supply chain shortages. The implementation of infrastructure for physical distancing and other health measures in combination with a drop in non-elective procedures lead to a significant decrease in revenue for many hospitals. In addition, drug shortages were the number one issue faced by hospitals from 2017 through 2020, and Covid-19 only made this more of a challenge. Despite these struggles, new automation technologies may be the key to filling the gaps that hospitals so desperately need to fill.

Automation technologies can take the place of more than ten different types of operations that are usually performed manually by a pharmacist, and can do it with much less error and at a faster pace. For example, a human technician can pick up to 120 medications per hour, while an automated dispensing machine can pick up to 700 per hour at a lower cost than the hourly wage of the pharmacist. The combination of these automated services and medication management software allows for greater inventory tracking to prevent waste, a more visible supply chain, and decreases the need for recalls within the drug inventory. The Covid-19 pandemic has forever changed how the pharmaceutical industry conducts business, and automated technologies have proven to be key in its success.

Impact of COVID 19 on Central Pharmacies