The United States is facing a shortage of qualified pharmacy technicians, which has significant impacts on the ability of pharmacies to provide efficient and safe medication services to patients. This shortage is caused by several factors including the increased demand for prescription medications due to the aging population, the rise in chronic health conditions and limited enrollment in certification programs.
The shortage is projected to persist. Employment growth for pharmacy technicians is slower than other occupations, with only a 4% increase projected from 2019 to 2029 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Recent data from the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) is consistent with statistic, showing a decline in enrollment in pharmacy technician education and training programs in recent years.
The impacts of the labor shortage of pharmacy technicians are far-reaching. With fewer technicians available to handle the increased demand for prescription medications, pharmacy technicians are working longer hours, facing increased stress and fatigue, and struggling to meet their responsibilities effectively. The Pharmacy Workforce Center found that 76% of pharmacy managers reported an increased workload on technicians with 43% indicating that they were working longer hours to cope with the increased demand. As a result of the increased workload on pharmacy technicians, medication errors are on the rise and are responsible for approximately 8,000 deaths each year.
The labor shortage has also caused increased costs for pharmacies. In an effort to attract qualified pharmacy technicians, pharmacies are offering higher wages or other incentives, which strains budgets. Additionally, pharmacies are hiring temporary or agency staff to fill the gaps, which can be costly and may not always be the most reliable solution.
To address the shortage of pharmacy technicians, pharmacies are turning to technology solutions like Plenful’s automation software. Plenful leverages AI and machine learning to automate complex processes like document processing, unstructured data cleansing, 340B auditing and qualification, financial assistance, and facility onboarding, among others. By automating administrative processes, software solutions like Plenful significantly reduces the strain caused by labor shortages and provides an average return on investment of 4x-6x.
Tackling the scarcity of pharmacy technicians requires a comprehensive strategy. It's important for healthcare industry stakeholders to collaborate and tackle the root causes and consequences of the shortage. This includes creating effective measures to guarantee access to a proficient and competent pharmacy technician workforce. Significant strides can be taken towards addressing the issues arising from the shortage by leveraging technological innovations such as Plenful to optimize operations.