Pharmacists interact with many individuals on a daily basis, acting as problem solvers and information providers for the people whom they encounter. Individuals from doctors to nurses and patients to care-givers seek their consultation when faced with an issue. As the healthcare landscape in Singapore evolves with the ageing population, the challenges to which pharmacists face evolve along with them. What are some of the challenges that pharmacists in Singapore face today?

1. National level – A changing demographic

According to Department of Statistics of Singapore, in the last decade, the Singapore resident population has grown older with more elderly and fewer younger people. As at end-June 2016, the proportion of residents aged 65 years and over has increased from 8.4% in 2006 to 12.4% in 20161. The greying population has put much stress on both the national budget as well as on the current pool of healthcare professionals caring for this community.

People tend to live longer in this generation as well. In 2013, Singapore's life expectancy at birth has risen over the past 20 years to reach 82.4 years2. Pharmacists must be prepared to deal with the needs of older patients, and need to understand the needs of older patients needing long-term care while balancing socio-economic factors such as healthcare costs, religious and beliefs distinct to each generation.

2. Organisational level - Shifting roles

In academia, pharmacy lecturers and educators are expected to manage pharmacy students at a greater volume and guide them in choosing between a pharmacy degree and a post grad degree such as PharmD or PhD. They no longer are impacting just knowledge, but also wisdom to students during career coaching.

In the pharmaceutical scene, as state law continues to divert away the exclusiveness of importing and exporting rights of drugs, pharmacists in regulatory, quality control/assurance, sales and marketing and logistics must be prepared for more competition with other graduates for career opportunities. They must be prepared to expand their portfolio to manage non-drug related issues. In the traditional community and acute care setting, pharmacists are expected to provide and monitor medical therapy and treatment, with increased responsibility in prescribing-on-behalf of doctors and expanding their roles in pharmacist-led clinics and services.

3. Individual level – Staying relevant

The practice of medicine changes on a daily basis. It is challenging for pharmacists as they are required to spend extra time to stay relevant and up-to-date on these changes. Information on drugs are everywhere on the internet, and it is not impossible to get humiliated by patients who are sometimes more well-read. Hence, it is paramount that pharmacists have that continuous learning spirit and humility to consult for advice, regardless of their seniority in the practice. Pharmacists can also tap on resources such as in-house seminars, congresses, news subscriptions and forums to learn new things and stay relevant.

Being a 21st century pharmacist can be tough. With the changing landscape of healthcare demands and roles in Singapore, local pharmacists in this age are definitely expected to handle more issues than their predecessors. MIMS

Read more:
Pharmacists' professional responsibilities: How do these differ between Singapore and other countries
Pharmacist-led clinics in Singapore
Are pharmacists’ roles as primary health professionals underutilised in Singapore?
Pharmacist: one of the best jobs in 2016?

Sources:
1. Population Trends. Department of Singapore Statistics. Available at: http://www.singstat.gov.sg/statistics/visualising-data/storyboards/population-trends. Last accessed 10 October 2016.
2. Life Expectancy in Singapore Information Note. 13 April 2016. Ministry of Health. Available at: https://www.moh.gov.sg/content/dam/moh_web/PressRoom/Highlights/2016/cos/Life%20Expectancy%20in%20Singapore%20Information%20Note_120416.pdf. Last accessed on 10 October 2016.