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PDA welcomes government action on the regulation of artificial intelligence systems used in pharmacy

After raising concerns about the risk of patient harm due to inappropriate use of so-called artificial intelligence (AI) to include that seen in some of the pharmacy systems undertaking clinical checks, the PDA welcomes the Westminster government’s ’AI Regulation White Paper’ published on 29 March.

Thu 30th March 2023 The PDA

For some time, the PDA has been receiving concerns from practicing pharmacists describing examples of the potentially detrimental impact of automation and online pharmacy provision on patient safety and pharmacy practice. As a result, the PDA has been raising these concerns with regulators, Chief Pharmaceutical Officers, and parliamentarians in all four nations of the UK to urge action. This is required not only to protect patients, but also the frontline pharmacists who could be blamed for potential harm caused by inappropriate use of so called ‘AI’ systems implemented by their employer.

The PDA therefore, welcomes the announcement from the UK government that they intend to strengthen regulation of such technology, empowering existing regulators to come up with tailored, context-specific approaches that suit the way AI is actually being used in their sectors; this will include pharmacy.

Having first raised the issue with them in 2021 and more recently agreed an initial way forward, the PDA expects pharmacy regulators to now accelerate the measures they need to implement to keep patients safe in a world increasingly reliant on AI.

Greater use of technology must be an aspect of the future of healthcare provision, and the PDA is supportive of modern and efficient technology led operations which support pharmacists in their clinical practice and their decision making. However, the use of technology must not move the clinician further from the patient, nor outpace patient safety considerations. Pharmacy regulation must be evolved quickly and be enforced in ways that cater for this rapidly emerging reality, which appears to be proliferating without any proper scrutiny.

The PDA believes that the time needs to come very soon, when pharmacists can ask their employer for evidence that their system has met with the requirements of the GPhC / PSNI.

Alison Jones, PDA Director of Policy said, “Above all, steps must be taken to ensure that new technology is introduced in an evidence-based way. This must satisfy regulatory and professional standards in the interests of patient safety and mitigation of risk. Importantly, it must also be supportive of the work of pharmacists in the delivery of pharmaceutical care and should not be used as a substitute for their expertise.”

Read the government launch of the AI regulation White Paper here.

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