Hospital pharmacy in the digital age – securing patient safety and utilising opportunities

By Stephanie Kohl, European Association of Hospital Pharmacists (EAHP)

 The topic of digital health has received increasing attention over the past couple of years. Hospital pharmacists acknowledged early on that European health systems are at the beginning of a journey in the direction of heightened application of digital services. The European Association of Hospital Pharmacists (EAHP) consequently geared its efforts towards preparing the profession for the digital transformation in the health sector.

The European Statements of Hospital Pharmacy are a prime example of the forward-thinking nature of hospital pharmacists. Formulated in collaboration with other healthcare professionals and patient organisations in 2014, these Statements outline commonly agreed objectives towards which every health system should be striving. In particular, Statement 1.7 addresses the digital transformation in the hospital sector by outlining that hospital pharmacists should be involved in the design, specification of parameters and evaluation of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) within the medicines processes. Only by integrating pharmacy services in the general ICT framework of a hospital, including electronic and mobile health procedures, can it be ensured that digital advancements are fully utilised. Implementing electronic prescribing together with bedside scanning in hospitals will, for example, complement the patient safety cycle and additionally promote accurate patient record-keeping as shown in Belgium, Switzerland, the Netherlands and the United States.

Digitalisation of health services indeed brings many opportunities which can improve individual patient understanding and self-management in relation to prescribed treatments. However, EAHP members have also recognised that care and vigilance must be taken in relation to digital advancements. In its 2017 position paper on eHealth and mHealth, the Association acknowledge the need for appropriate oversight of mobile solutions in order to minimise the potential negative impact of offering contradictory, inaccurate or low quality advice to patients. Areas where this could become a significant concern include, for example, dosing calculators or dosing advice. EAHP is consequently promoting the unique role of the hospital pharmacist as a bridge between medicines and technology when advising patients on appropriate medicines use.

Digital technologies are advancing at a rapid pace. To ensure that the education and training of hospital pharmacists is not outpaced by these advances, EAHP is in constant dialogue with experts from its member organisations to ensure that the Association stays up-to-date on issues relating to the digital transformation of care in the hospital environment, artificial intelligence and big data. An expert group has been put together which under the lead of EAHP’s Directors of Professional Development Robert Moss and Steffen Amann keeps an eye on developments relevant for the profession.



  • De Rijdt, T., Computerised physician order entry and bedside scanning as a tool to improve patient safety. European Journal of Hospital Pharmacy: Science and Practice, 2012. 19(3): p. 320-321.
  • Bonnabry, P., Vision from a hospital pharmacist on bar coding of pharmaceuticals, at the GS1 Healthcare Conference. 2011: Prague, Czech Republic.
  • Helmons, P.J., L.N. Wargel, and C.E. Daniels, Effect of barcode-assisted medication administration on medication administration errors and accuracy in multiple patient care areas. American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy, 2009. 66(13): p. 1202‐1210.
  • Helmons, P.J., Yes we scan! Minimizing medication administration errors through successful change management, GS1 Healthcare webinar. 2018.

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