Pharmacies are high-volume businesses involving medications that, if administered improperly, can cause severe reactions in patients, or even death. The introduction of the computer into the practice of pharmacology has made pharmacists more productive, and made the jobs of pharmacy technicians much easier by making it easier and more efficient to process data on individual customers. In addition, it has made it much more efficient for pharmacists to communicate with each other while processing prescriptions because those who work within a chain system, for example, CVS or Walgreens, can quickly and easily access information on customers who are traveling and cannot access their usual store.
Most importantly, the introduction of computers into the practice of pharmacology has made it easier for technicians and pharmacists to identify chemical interactions that could prove harmful to the patient. Pharmacists are highly-trained individuals who must be able to readily identify the potential for adverse reactions in customers using multiple medications. A customer already using one medication, but prescribed another medication for a new health problem, cannot be expected to know whether the new medication is compatible with the existing one. The prescribing physician should have that information, but doctors may miss that detail, so it is important that the pharmacist catch the potential mistake. Computer programs can help identify possible fatal drug interactions.
The main disadvantage of introducing computers into pharmacies is the potential for computer hackers to access personal data on millions of people. As the federal government and private companies with security clearances for sensitive work repeatedly learn, any computer system that is designed to function as broadly as those used in pharmacies can be hacked into by skilled computer technicians. The ability of hackers to access personal data or to manipulate data poses a serious risk to the integrity of the process.
Finally, reliance on computers to store and process data can prove disadvantageous when those computer systems fail, as most invariably do from time to time. Failure to "back-up" data on a regular basis can threaten a pharmacy's ability to function should technical glitches occur with the computer systems on which it relies.