Exploration of the Impact of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Development on Community Pharmacy Practices in in Nigeria
The introduction of the concept of pharmaceutical care as well as integration of ICT-based techniques into the practice of community pharmacy has reshaped the professional job functions of modern day community pharmacists as attention is being given in continuum to patient-oriented services. Consequently, issues such as medication error, undue waiting time, prescription problems to mention a few are being effectively addressed and managed courtesy of ICT-based techniques such as e-prescription, telecare, barcode scanning to etc. usage in the work station of community pharmacists. These techniques among others have also been observed and reported to reduce the workload of community pharmacists which in turn create more time to offer patient-focused services. The present study explored the use of ICT-based techniques as well as the level of professionalism pharmacists in the practice of community pharmacy in Nigeria. Community pharmacy is one of the facilities in the Nigerian primary health sector rendering health services to patients of which majority are financially constrained and not covered by health insurance. The study was modelled on qualitative research pedagogy and specifically conducted in the selected locality of Eti-Osa LGA, Lagos state Nigeria. Fifteen (15) licensed and practicing community pharmacists were sourced for the exploratory research study using purposive and snowballing sampling techniques and seven (7) were successfully engaged with 10 pre-drafted questions through semi-structured interview that averaged 37.5 minutes on mobile phone conversation. Each 9 | P a g e of the interview sessions was audiotaped, transcribed, coded and subjected to thematic data analysis. Five key themes were identified based on respondents’ opinions and it was found that community pharmacists in study’s locale are aware of the use of ICT-based techniques such as Health Information Technology, Electronic Prescription and Telecare services in their line of duty as seen in the developed world but their use in the Nigerian environment is inexistent. This study unraveled the factors including poor infrastructural facilities, lack of technical skills, financial constraints, poor public reception as the major bottlenecks behind the nonexistent of these ICTbased techniques in the professional workstation of of community pharmacist in Nigeria. Consequently, this paper proffered measures to bring about the existence of these techniques as respondents welcomed the idea of their introduction and felt it would enhance their professional job functions. Interestingly, the present work also established a theorized concept of “Professional Marginalization” and “Professional Exclusion” as engaged community pharmacists overtly stated that they had no well-defined place in the Nigerian public health system owing to the fact that they enjoyed little or no “professional rapport” with other health professionals when it comes to patients’ health issues. Non-existence of ICT-based techniques was said to contributed to this and respondents thus call for a way to be involved by integrating ICT-based techniques explored here along with others seen in the advanced world in their work station. Respondents felt that their professional stance can be redefined with ICT-based technique. The research thus conclusively calls for future research to the done in staking claim for the theorized concept of professional marginalization and professional exclusion established here.