Publisher's Window: July/August 2015

Programming Languages and Robotics

The cover story in the June 15–28 issue of Bloomberg Businessweek was about programming languages and the evolution of programming code. For those of you who are programming buffs, you would enjoy this issue of Bloomberg Businessweek. In fact, the entire issue was devoted to the cover story, and I found that the material was presented in a very reader-engaging way.

I was amazed to see how many programming languages there are — several hundred, for that matter. All have their loyalists. There is not one language that is the clear winner. And all have their pluses and minuses. Some are designed for specific applications. What I found interesting is that COBOL is still the favorite of the banking industry.

One thing I learned is that there are 11 million professional software developers in the world and an additional 7 million who program as a hobby, according to the research firm IDC.

When you stop and think about how far we have come just in pharmacy in the 40 years since computers were first used to process prescriptions, it’s simply remarkable. And it’s all based on writing code to extend the benefits derived.

Then there is the June 19 issue of The Kiplinger Letter that talked about robotics and the increasing use of this technology in surprising places like dairy farms, where robots equipped with cameras and lasers can locate and milk cows. Even fast-food establishments are a target market, with a California-based company Momentum Machines building a robot that will flip burgers and make sandwiches. The Kiplinger Letter stated that: “Robots will make U.S. firms more competitive with cheaper human labor abroad. They’re expected to boost productivity by up to 30% and lower labor costs by 18% across a wide swath of industries over the next 10 years.”

We all know the beneficial impact robotic dispensing has had on pharmacy. When prescription volume reached a certain point, installing a robot was readily cost-justified as a way to increase productivity. Since their introduction we have seen this automation offered with a smaller footprint and a lower price point, allowing even more pharmacies to take advantage of this technology.

While health services was one of the markets singled out as an example of how robots are being used, it was the dental market mentioned, where robots are used to help construct crowns. But it was pharmacy that pioneered the use of robotics in the healthcare sector. This is more evidence of how pharmacy has been ahead of the technology curve when it comes to the use of computer technology in healthcare.

But it never fails to amaze me how this fact is never something the pharmacy organizations (national and state) tout as contributing to improved patient adherence and outcomes, when technology does indeed play an important role. I think the feeling is that technology is used to help run the pharmacy. This feeling has to change.CT

Bill Lockwood, chairman/publisher, can be reached at
GSL Intellicab