Artificial intelligence: act or be acted upon — staying relevant in the AI era

As we navigate the transformative landscape of artificial intelligence (AI), it’s essential for pharmacists in all sectors—government, industry, academia, and healthcare—to embrace the significant opportunities and challenges it presents. AI and machine learning (ML) are ushering in a new era of innovation, demanding our proactive engagement.

Traditionally, our profession has adopted new technologies cautiously. Many pharmacists, especially in settings like the NHS, primary care, or community pharmacies, may view AI as a distant concern due to current data-sharing limitations. However, underestimating AI’s immediate impact is a misconception we can’t afford.

The recent Qualified Person Symposium, particularly Martin Lush’s talk on “AI and the Impact in the QP,” highlighted our strategic options with AI: Ignore it and risk obsolescence, attempt to confine it—an impractical approach, partner with it, or defer to it, which can be hazardous.

The optimal strategy is to actively partner with AI, engaging in dialogues about its ethical use and potential to enhance patient outcomes and operational efficiency. Ensuring AI’s integration into pharmacy practice bolsters, rather than compromises, patient safety is paramount.

In this AI-driven era, interdisciplinary collaboration is crucial. As RPS members, we are tasked with leading discussions and policies that prioritize patient welfare. Effective critical thinking is essential to leverage AI responsibly, challenging assumptions and embracing diverse perspectives to avoid groupthink.

What steps can you take as a pharmacist or pharmaceutical scientist? Start by familiarising yourself with AI—read about it, experiment, and understand its limitations. Inquire about the AI tools your organization uses and those it plans to adopt. Evaluate your tasks for automation potential to focus more on value-added activities. Pursue AI education on platforms offering courses that don’t require coding skills. Enhance your critical thinking, foster cross-disciplinary collaboration, and above all cultivate curiosity.

This is our call to action: Deepen your understanding of AI to mitigate fear and maximise its benefits. Let’s lead the charge as AI optimists, working collectively to forge a future where technology not only enhances our capabilities but also upholds the highest standards of patient safety. 

Ciara Duffy

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, May 2024, Vol 312, No 7985;312(7985)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2024.1.315301

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