Knowledge, Skills, and Resources for Pharmacy Informatics Education

Article excerpt


In the late 1870s, pharmacists helped pioneer the precursor of modern telemedicine as the first telephone exchange in history connected the Capital Avenue Drugstore with 21 local physicians. (1) Medicine continued to incorporate technology through the years, and in 1955, when fewer than 250 computers existed, early articles were published on the electronic digital computer and health. (2) Shortly thereafter, the term informatique medicate (medical informatics) was coined in France and subsequently adopted broadly. (3) As medical informatics became a recognized term, the debate began on how best to educate its corps of aspiring practitioners. The basis for formal education on the subject was conceived by a forward-looking group of experts almost 40 years ago. In 1974, they published one of the first guides for teaching medical informatics, Education in Informatics of Health Personnel. (14) While informatics may have a relatively recent presence in the mind of many pharmacists, it does possess a robust history over the last half century.

Informatics is commonly defined as the "use of computers to manage data and information" and represents the nexus of people, information, and technology. (5) Medical informatics, sometimes used interchangeably with health informatics, is a more specific application of the use of these tools and techniques in endeavors related to the infrastructure, development, and delivery of optimal healthcare. Umbrella terms for informatics contain numerous major domains such as bioinformatics (ie, cellular and molecular biology, and genomics), public health informatics (ie, application to surveillance and health promotion), imaging informatics, and clinical informatics. (5,6) Clinical informatics can be further subdivided by specialty into nursing informatics, dental informatics, and pharmacy informatics.

Pharmacy informatics focuses on the use and integration of data, information, knowledge, and technology involved with medication use processes to improve outcomes. (7,8) The uses of informatics have ranged from improving pharmaceutical care in oncology, to providing clinical decision support (CDS) for antimicrobial stewardship and pharmacokinetics, to containing costs in managed care. (8-12) Pharmacy informatics was actually part of practice long before it was a cogent term or discipline; in fact, even the study of computers and technology to improve pharmacy practice dates back over 20 years. (13) As technologies evolved that impacted the delivery of medication therapy, they permitted a reengineering of the medication use process. (7)

Just as informatics impacted the medication use process, it also has impacted pharmacy education. To provide direction regarding the informatics education of pharmacy students, the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) Standards and Guidelines, Version 2.0, integrated an emphasis on informatics, including a mandate that pharmacy graduates "demonstrate expertise in informatics" (Guideline 12.1). (14) Example informatics competencies were adapted from the International Medical Informatics Association (IMIA) educational recommendations, which were revised in 2010. (15,16) Emphasis on informatics is found several times throughout the ACPE Standards and is certainly needed. However, the provision that requires all pharmacy graduates to demonstrate "expertise" may not be a readily achievable goal due to a shortage of pharmacy faculty members specialized in informatics and the rapid scope change for informatics in the Standards from minor to requiring expertise. Acquisition of basic informatics knowledge and skills will be absolutely necessary for pharmacy practitioners regardless of setting, just as it is for physicians. (17)


Although the profession has a history of relying on computers for business-related functions and the literature specifically addresses the practice and educational implications of new health care technology, considerable variation exists in the topics found among informatics articles in the pharmacy literature. …