When we look to the future we see a world in chrome, with robots tutoring our children and driving our cars. Of course, in 2022, these predictions aren’t far off, and artificial intelligence (AI) technology has been implemented in most industries in some form or another.
The medical industry is probably one of the first industries that springs to mind when we think of robots in a non The Matrix way. We have a slight understanding of the many robots and automations that have changed the landscape of medicine and surgery for the better. Automation isn't a particularly new trend across the pharmacy industry. However, it is more recently that this market has entered a new evolution, with integration throughout the western world occurring steadily.
What is Pharmacy Automation?
Pharmacy automation refers to the mechanical process of distributing and handling medications. In general, the tasks that technologies can take over in a pharmacy setting are those such as:
- Counting small objects
- Measuring and mixing powders and liquids for compounding
- Tracking and updating customer information in databases
- Inventory management
There are two general segments the market falls under: inpatient and outpatient. The products included in the inpatient pharmacy automation market are things like automated medication labeling systems, barcode scanning systems, narcotics management equipment, tablet splitters and compounding systems. In the outpatient market, the products used are counting and vial shredders, packaging and filling equipment, and dispensing/ storage equipment.
Pharmacy automation essentially works double time in place of a human doing the labor. Reduced wait times and, of course slashed labor costs is an incentive any business would want, but are initial start-up expenses restraining the market from reaching its full potential?
What do we want? Pharmacy Automation! When do we want it? Now!
The current surge in the pharmacy automation market stems from assimilating traditionalists to the AI game. Manufacturers of pharmacy automation equipment have shifted their marketing efforts to facilities that host pharmacy services such as hospitals, long-term care homes, and retail pharmacy chains. These suppliers are also targeting privately or family-owned pharmacies in a bid to expand the market globally. With many manufacturers in the market, competitive costs have since made the integration of automated systems within reach to the smaller businesses that require them.
Accounting for 60.4% of the global market, the US stacked up an impressive, total revenue of $3.4 billion for pharmacy automation in 2020 alone. The global market for pharmacy automation is hefty, with a compound annual growth rate of 9.4% and expected to reach $9.9 billion by 2026, - the industry is offering something that organizations need.
Looking at the market drivers, a clear pattern forms in the way businesses adopt automation. With a focus on productivity and a reduction in human errors, the factors responsible for growth in the market include:
- Continuous need to reduce medicine error
- Aging population
- A rising trend in global health spending
- Improved drug therapy
- Access to medicines in rural and underdeveloped regions
- Long-term cost savings plans
- The growing use of IT in healthcare
- Demand for retail self-service options
- Streamlining operations and reducing errors/risk
There’s always room for improvement…
With the constant change and development of technology, it’s no surprise that pharmacies are adopting a more digital production line. In the fickle world we live in, there is always room for growth and change, which for a competitive market like pharmacy automation, opens opportunities for further expansion.
The opportunities for the market, which will arise throughout the forecast period include:
- More pharmacy service facilities embracing the use of AI to help fulfill orders, such as large hospitals and mail-order service facilities.
- With growing compliance with barcoding standards and new tracking capabilities with radio frequency identification (RFID), there will be an opportunity to fully automate pharmacies.
- To remain competitive in the pharmaceutical dispensing business, organizations will be highly dependent on efficient automation systems. Therefore, upgrades are likely to be an ongoing process.
- The market will continue to gain momentum after experiencing purchasing holds for equipment from hospitals and other health delivery facilities.
So, they’re not really taking over the world…Yet!
The pharmacy automation market has set clear expectations for its future goals to take over the pharmacy industry. With a steady incline in revenue and many factors aiming to get the market to $9.9 billion by 2026, the next few years will be crucial in automation being endorsed by all pharmacy facilities.
To read more from the BCC analysts on the pharmacy automation market, click here to download your complimentary copy of the report overview or to purchase the full report.
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