Scottish pharmacy strategy highlights digital measures

NHS Scotland document outlines plans for digital integration as part of effort to step up the role of pharmacists in healthcare

Increased digital integration with primary care providers and investigations into the use of analytics in prescribing are among the plans for Scotland’s pharmacists as a part of a newly published national strategy.

Pharmacy signNHS Scotland has outlined the workstreams in Achieving Excellence in Pharmacy Care, in which the continued development infrastructure is one of the nine commitments to promote the role of pharmacists.

The underlying thrust of the strategy is to strengthen their roles in community healthcare and hospitals. This includes optimising the use of digital information and data to improve their services.

One of the key measures is to extend the ePharmacy Programme, which has so far focused on the electronic transfer of prescriptions by GPs, to other primary care prescribers.

The document says this can speed up the move towards a paperless service, and improve efficiency by removing the need for community pharmacists to endorse and claim both electronically and on paper. It could also help to reduce fraud through the forging of prescriptions.

Paperless prescribing

Extending the programme to other prescribers is one of the actions outlined in the strategy, along with a plan to scope and test an incremental move to paperless prescribing across primary care.

This will be accompanied by efforts to ensure that pharmacists are able to provide input into the implementation of Health Electronic Prescribing and Administration (HEPMA) systems – which are being rolled out across NHS Scotland health boards – and the development of a Scottish Code of Practice for the sharing of healthcare information between organisations.

There is also scope for harnessing data analytics to support the activities of pharmacists. The strategy refers to an example of using predictive analytics to assess the infection risks, and says it could be possible to develop decision support algorithms.

Subsequently, there will be moves to define a roadmap for the development of pharmacy decision support tools as part of the Digital Decision Support Programme.

Another element of the strategy involves exploring options to step up the use of automation and robotics in dispensing drugs in hospital and community pharmacy services.

First port of call

Speaking of the whole strategy, the Scottish Government’s chief pharmaceutical officer Dr Rose Marie Parr said: “Pharmacy teams in both hospital and the community already play an important role in the provision of NHS services.

“In the community, we are making good progress in promoting local pharmacies as the first port of call for our most common healthcare needs and I want to encourage more people to see them as their initial point of care. Coupled with the commitment to transform hospital pharmacy services, I believe this strategy will support our ambition to deliver world class pharmaceutical care.

The strategy reflects efforts throughout the UK to better integrate the work of pharmacists into national health services, and a recognition that this requires an effective digital infrastructure and appropriate information governance measures.