PSMO-04 - Novel roles of pharmacists in future healthcare systems on both sides of the digital divide

Organised by FIPs Technology Advisory Group and FIPsHealth and Medicines Information Section in collaboration with FIPs Early Career Pharmaceutical Group and FIPs Academic Pharmacy Section


Dr Luna El Bizri, FIP Health and Medicines Information Section, Lebanon and Mr Jaime Acosta-Gomez, FIP Technology Advisory Group, Spain


The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged healthcare systems globally and has shown their vulnerability. In response, healthcare professionals undertook several roles outside their scope of practice, expanding the remit of their daily work. Expanded pharmacist roles included clinical consultations online or in person, pharmacist prescribing, and other new specialty services that build capacity and resilience in the entire healthcare system. Healthcare requires trust and good communication at all levels. Ultimately, good communication and professional counseling with patients can lead to better health outcomes, including decreased preventable hospitalizations, reduced avoidable medical costs, and improved patient well-being.

The complexity of the information and the digital environment has highlighted a novel set of challenges where access to quality care might depend on the patient’s digital health literacy. Innovative delivery services and advances in technology and digitalization have offered pharmacists an opportunity to enhance online communication by relying on artificial intelligence and ‘chatbots’ to engage with consumers and interpret complex medical information, simulating conversation with human users and providing personalized help. Pharmacists will be able to focus on more added value and complex activities, and will need to engage with their communities to provide public health education to ensure access to quality care for everyone, particularly digitally, linguistically, and/or otherwise challenged patients. Public health pharmacists will be able to understand the real community needs and deliver innovative and traditional services tailored to these needs.

Finally, it is critical to identify ethical, legal and practical – not to mention the accuracy – of the healthcare information and advice delivered by future AI tools such as chatbots. In recent years, virtual assistants and AI-powered conversational chatbots have taken center stage, popping up in hospitals, labs, pharmacies and even nursing homes. With good reason, in the age of digital customer experience, customers expect fast and convenient interactions. Recently, chatbots like ChatGPT have been able to diagnose the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease by identifying abnormalities in how people articulate words, which is the first sign of the disease. By recognizing the power of artificial intelligence (AI), we can foresee a virtual health worker and pharmacist using AI technology to help the world in addressing public health challenges. The World Health Organization already uses a digital health worker – Florence – to support 1.3 billion tobacco users in quitting smoking. 

Florence uses AI to dispel myths about COVID-19 and smoking and helps people to develop a personalized plan to quit smoking. Around 60% of tobacco users worldwide say they want to quit, but only 30% have access to the tools they need to take action. As such, there are many new opportunities to position the pharmacist as a key health professional in public health, and the gateway to care, by using new transformational health models where the pharmacist ensures appropriate initiation of treatment, access to the medical record, long-term adherence and care management, and pharmacovigilance. The pharmacist will be the educator, empowering patients to make the best decision for their care.



11:00 – 11:05 Session introduction by the chairs
11:05 – 11:30 AI and chatbots for improved adherence and outcomes
Dr Whitley Yi, University of Colorado Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, USA
11:30 – 11:55 The public health pharmacist of today and tomorrow
Dr Janvier Kabogo, Unitia Pharmaceuticals Ltd., Rwanda
11:55 – 12:25 Panel discussion
12:25 – 12:30 Wrap up and conclusions

Learning objectives

  • To understand the opportunities and challenges of health and medicines information online and how digital health literacy may impact access to care
  • To recognize the opportunities presented by artificial intelligence as a tool that could interpret complex medical information and present it in an accessible way to patients
  • To recognize the role of public health pharmacists and their importance in the community by providing health education and as a source of quality health and medicines information

Take home messages

Healthcare systems are evolving and becoming increasingly more complex. The entry of novel technologies, e- and m-health devices, and the wide availability of health and medicines information on the web, enable many patients to make better informed decisions about their health. However, this also creates unique challenges where digital health literacy may impact access to quality and effective care. Pharmacists, as the most accessible health professionals, are best positioned to work with patients and help bridge this digital divide. In the community, public health pharmacists are focused on health outcomes and providing health education. This new focus requires novel skills and competencies and represents a significant opportunity for professional growth. Chatbot, powered by artificial intelligence, is another tool that could support patients to make informed therapy decisions by interpreting complex information. These digital tools, however, depend significantly on access to quality health and medicines information, highlighting once again this critical symbiosis between technology and pharmacists as a source of such information. This session will highlight the exponential developments in the digital field, discussing the roles of the public health pharmacist and artificial intelligence in pharmacy practice.