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A large proportion of pharmacy schools and faculties do not yet offer digital health education or training, according to the findings of a survey by the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) published recently. The findings are presented in a new report, FIP digital health in pharmacy education: Developing a digitally enabled pharmaceutical workforce. 

The survey, which was completed by 1,060 pharmacy schools, faculty members, students and practitioner groups from 91 countries, investigated the readiness and responsiveness of pharmacy education with regard to digital health and identified knowledge and skills gaps in the pharmaceutical workforce. The survey also found that many practitioners are lacking familiarity with emerging digital health technologies such as blockchain, bots, digital medicines and artificial intelligence, and only a small fraction of these respondents had received continuous educational development on digital health.

“With the increased complexity of health conditions and ageing populations, digital health can be the key to many unmet needs in health services. A capable and digitally-enabled pharmaceutical workforce is required to make use of the full potential of digital health,” said Prof Aukje Mantel-Teeuwisse, chair of the report group.

She added: “Pharmacy education is at the centre of accelerating the uptake of digital health technologies in pharmaceutical care by educating the current and future pharmaceutical workforce.” However, schools and faculties reported a lack of experts and resources needed for digital health education.

The report describes digital health education initiatives from pharmacy schools and faculties around the world and outlines a number of “ways forward”, including giving greater attention to workforce development for implementing new systems of digital health delivery, the adoption of education strategies by employers and universities, and professionally-driven advocacy efforts to ensure integration of digital health into pharmacy education and support the inclusion of digital health in educational and accreditation standards.

“Pharmacists historically have embraced information technologies. This report lays the foundation of our current status in pharmacy education for us to build upon. I hope this report and its findings will inspire pharmacy schools to develop and implement lectures or courses in their own curricula, and national and regional professional organisations to equip the pharmaceutical workforce with the necessary digital health knowledge and skills,” Prof Mantel-Teeuwisse said.

The report’s authors also recommend further work and research related to the scientific workforce and digital health in pharmaceutical sciences education.