Keeping aware of international healthcare trends has always played an important role in the way Stuart and I run our businesses, and this week we visited Expopharm, Europe’s largest pharmacy trade show.
We’ve visited Expopharm a number of times now, as the European market has led the world in the introduction and development of large scale medication compliance packaging pharmacies and oursourcing facilities. Our first visit was back in 2008 when APHS Packaging was first underway, and the knowledge we gained from that visit heavily influenced our approach. We also formed lasting friendships with a number of industry leaders, which have also been of great value on both a personal and professional level ever since.
This year we were keen to see how European pharmacy was approaching the new wave of digital innovation sweeping the healthcare industry, so had that as a key focus of our visit.
As always, my Google Glass proved a great conversation starter and as we moved around the enormous exhibition halls, I had numerous chats with people about how Glass worked and what role it could play in the healthcare space. Most people were aware of Glass, but this was the first time they’d seen and had a chance to try it and it’s fair to say there was a huge amount of enthusiasm for the role Glass can play in healthcare.
One of the big differences between Expopharm and Australia’s APP is the number of dogs present. Big dogs, small dogs — their presence was a tangible reminder that we definitely weren’t in Australia, where dogs are certainly not welcome at a trade display!
The other difference I found really compelling was, that in a week where there has been a large amount of discussion in Australian pharmacy forums on the relative risks and benefits of outsourcing dose administration aids versus manually preparing them in the pharmacy, there was absolutely no visibility of manual systems at Expopharm at all. Automation suppliers and blistercentres (as the outsourcing facilities are known here) were everywhere.
This market is really mature in Europe now, with manually prepared products generally considered very old fashioned. The Dutch government has even made it mandatory for all nursing homes to only use compliance aids produced via automation due to the vastly improved accuracy and safety benefits. This comes as no surprise when you see the incredible advances that have been made in inspection technology. When I attended that first Expopharm, digital inspection technology was in its infancy but already delivering vast improvements over human error detection rates. Six years later, this tech is now so sophisticated that there’s just no question around the extraordinary risk reduction it delivers.
As my European friends said this week when I told them about the debate going on in Australia: ‘How can pharmacists hope to play their necessary role in delivering community care if all their time is spent packing and checking manual dose administration aids? It’s just a waste of their time and skills, and doesn’t deliver any additional value to the patient.’
I’m sure it comes as no surprise that I sit firmly in the automation camp, and believe that spending time with the patients, ensuring that their medication profiles are safe and effective and helping them best manage their chronic diseases is far better use of a pharmacists time than hours spent sitting out the back of the pharmacy counting tablets in blister packs.
From one soapbox to the next, disappointingly applications and integration of wearable tech into pharmacy were just as invisible at Expopharm as they are in the main in Australian pharmacies (why oh why does pharmacy continue to leave this area to other retailers?). That said, there were plenty of other interesting advances that Australian pharmacy could definitely consider.
Expopharm delivered again, with food for thought and ideas aplenty. Watch this space….