Senda Kartika Rakainsa, S.Farm., M.Pharm. Sc., is a young lecturer in the Department of Chemistry at the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Semarang State University, teaching Pharmacognosy, Phytochemistry, and Standardization of Natural Materials. Email address: [email protected].
The Industry 4.0 era brings new challenges to all professions, including pharmacists. Pharmacists are responsible for providing pharmaceutical services, which in today’s era of global competition have shifted their paradigm from drug-oriented to patient-oriented. Pharmaceutical service activities that used to focus only on managing drugs as commodities have changed their orientation to comprehensive services aimed at improving the quality of life of patients. Pharmacists are required to improve their competencies, including knowledge, skills, and behavior, to be able to directly interact with patients. Forms of interaction include providing drug information and monitoring drug use to ensure that the final results of treatment can be achieved and well documented. In carrying out these tasks, pharmacists need to adhere to pharmaceutical service standards to avoid medication errors. In addition, communication with other healthcare professionals is essential in the process of determining therapy to support rational drug use.
The trend in healthcare services has gradually shifted from conventional services to digital services. For example, telemedicine services have been widely utilized by the public during the Covid-19 pandemic, where people can consult with healthcare professionals online. In addition, in healthcare facilities such as hospitals, community health centers, and pharmacies, as well as in the pharmaceutical industry and distribution facilities, digitization has been implemented in the production and management of pharmaceutical preparations.
On the one hand, technological and social media developments provide opportunities for pharmacists to introduce their profession to the wider community. Until now, pharmacists have often been seen as “behind the counter” figures (even unknown in hospitals, pharmacies, and industries), but now through various digital platforms and social media, pharmacists have the opportunity to introduce their profession to the public. Educational and informational content about drugs can now be easily accessed from anywhere. In addition, healthcare services that integrate digital systems, such as e-prescribing, are also considered to optimize the work of pharmacists in healthcare facilities, as they help reduce the risk of misreading and translating prescriptions, improve the accuracy of drug doses and indications, speed up data input stages, facilitate administrative processes and patient medication history recording, and save paper. One of the benefits is that patient waiting time in queuing for prescriptions can be reduced and the public can have more freedom in receiving drug counseling services from pharmacists.
However, on the other hand, pharmacists who are not prepared to face technological developments will eventually be eroded. Therefore, pharmacists need to improve their professionalism to keep up with rapidly evolving technology. Digitalization applied in the pharmacy industry needs to be accompanied by a “human touch”, so that technological advancements serve as a support, not to eliminate the role of pharmacists. In addition, another challenge is the online sale of drugs on various marketplaces, which raises concerns about the increasing circulation of counterfeit, illegal, and substandard drugs. In this regard, pharmacists need to collaborate with the government to conduct surveillance, law enforcement, and community empowerment, so that the public’s awareness of using drugs wisely can be increased. The circulation of hoaxes and misinformation about health and drugs also needs to be addressed through active education. In short, the era of Industry 4.0 has opened up many opportunities while also presenting challenges for the pharmacy profession.
For the Pharmacy Study Program of UNNES that offers pharmaceutical education, especially in the era of disruption, there are unique challenges in equipping students with the knowledge, skills, and values necessary to face the working world. Students need to be equipped with up-to-date knowledge and skills. With certified pharmacist educators who are actively practicing, it is hoped that they can transfer the knowledge and values they have gained in the working world to students. The development of the curriculum also needs to keep up with the times, so that it can contribute to the production of competent and competitive graduates. Pharmacists who take positions as educators in higher education actually have a strategic position, not only in educating but also in conducting research and providing community service in accordance with their expertise.
Finally, the pharmacy profession is expected to continue to exist in the era of technological development, not to lose its existence. “Change is inevitable, but growth is optional” (John C. Maxwell).
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