Objective: To provide a background on pharmacy informatics and the current role of the pharmacy technician, as well as to review the different technologies that pharmacy technicians utilize in routine practice and identify opportunities for pharmacy technicians to assist pharmacists in the practice of pharmacy informatics. Data Sources: Articles were identified through searches of MEDLINE/PubMed (1946-March 2015) with the following search terms: pharmacy informatics and technician, medical informatics and technician, and technician informaticists. Additionally, informatics resources from the American Society of Health-Systems Pharmacists were used. Study Selection and Data Extraction: Articles that discussed the pharmacy technician’s and/or other pharmacy staff’s role in medical or pharmacy informatics were considered for inclusion. Data Synthesis: Several roles for the pharmacy technician were identified and reviewed in the literature and subsequently categorized based on the following identified themes: pharmacy technician informaticists, health-system pharmacy technicians, and community pharmacy technicians. Conclusions: As the field of pharmacy informatics continues to grow, pharmacy technicians will continue to play an integral role at various levels of pharmacy practice.
Health care is rapidly changing, and the roles that pharmacy staff play in providing care are changing as well. An underlying theme in health care’s evolution is the use of computers and technology to enhance care, known collectively as “informatics.” Formally, medical informatics is a “field of information science concerned with the analysis, use and dissemination of medical data and information through the application of computers to various aspects of health care and medicine.”1 As a subset of medical informatics, pharmacy informatics deals with the application of pharmacy-related health data for a variety of purposes. The American Society of Health-Systems Pharmacy (ASHP) formally defines it as “the use and integration of data, information, knowledge, technology, and automation in the medication-use process for the purpose of improving health outcomes.”2 In more practical terms, pharmacy informatics is the use of electronic health data to support safe and effective medication use. Pharmacy informatics can include various aspects of medication management, from a drug utilization review, to the use of barcoding technology during product dispensing, to the development of alert systems to improve prescribing and dispensing of medications. Pharmacy informatics involves broad collaboration between pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, physicians, nurses, information technology personnel, and other health care professionals.3
As opportunities in pharmacy informatics develop, so do the duties and responsibilities of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians related to its provision. Health information systems already engage pharmacists and pharmacy technicians across a variety of health care settings, including e-prescribing, computerized prescriber order entry (CPOE), electronic medical records (EMRs), electronic health records (EHRs), bar code dispensing and administration systems (BCMAs), automated dispensing cabinets (ADCs), controlled substance or prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) databases, and immunization registries. To provide clinical, technical, regulatory, and practical oversight into health information systems, pharmacists and pharmacy technicians are being recruited to fulfill more technology-driven roles. Specialists working in these roles are referred to as clinical informatics pharmacists and pharmacy technician informaticists (PTIs).3 Whether as a PTI, or a frontline pharmacy technician involved in medication dispensing, the responsibility to ensure integrity of the data entered into our computer systems is shared by each individual involved in the process.
The purpose of this article will be to provide a background on pharmacy informatics and the current role of the pharmacy technician, as well as to review the different technologies that pharmacy technicians utilize in routine practice and identify opportunities for pharmacy technicians to assist pharmacists in the practice of pharmacy informatics.
What is a Informatics Pharmacist? Featuring Brian Fung | Path to Pharmacy Informatics | Salary
What do informatics pharmacists do?
Informatics pharmacists analyze patient data relating to prescription medication, examining factors such as drug dosage, contraindications and side effects. They share this information with other health care providers via the electronic health record, allowing everyone involved in a patients care to understand the patients needs, make effective health care decisions and optimize care plans accordingly. Other duties may vary depending on the workplace but generally include:
What is an informatics pharmacist?
An informatics pharmacist, also known as a pharmacy informaticist, is a health care professional who specializes in the health informatics of medication-related patient care. Health informatics refers to the collection, storage, access and use of personal health information to improve the treatment plans for patients. Pharmacy informatics focuses primarily on the use of technology and communications to enhance factors associated with medication administration and patient outcomes resulting from it. Electronic health records, for example, allow for streamlined communication between physicians and pharmacists regarding prescriptions. Information sharing of this sort helps to prevent errors and expedite pharmaceutical services.
There are a few specializations within the field of pharmacy informatics, including:
Foundational skills of informatics pharmacists
To succeed as an informatics pharmacist, you need a variety of hard and soft skills common to professionals in the health care and IT industries. Foundational skills in this profession include:
Communication is the ability to convey information in a way that allows others to comprehend. Informatics pharmacists frequently collaborate or interact with professionals in both the health care and IT industries, relaying important information about medications or methods for systems improvement. Effective written and verbal communication skills help to ensure that other parties understand specific needs that are important for making important health care decisions or managing essential health data.
Much of an informatics pharmacists day-to-day responsibilities relate to solving problems, as the role involves devising ways to improve processes and data-sharing practices. A successful informatics pharmacist is able to understand what components of a system need improvement and can determine solutions that suit the needs of everyone using the system. Also, because system users are often practitioners of different occupations, the ability to understand the needs of people and find appropriate solutions for them is also essential.
Because the role of informatics pharmacists involves a significant amount of information technology, its essential to be adept at several IT skills. Knowledge of terminologies relating to computer networks and infrastructures is necessary to communicate with other IT professionals. You should also have some basic programming skills for tasks that involve managing databases or developing systems.
Informatics pharmacists use various technologies to carry out their duties. To succeed in this profession, you should be familiar and skilled with the tools, software, systems and technological practices common to the field. These include:
How to become an informatics pharmacist
You can follow these steps to enter the field of pharmacy informatics:
1. Complete your bachelors degree
A bachelors degree is necessary to pursue a doctorate degree in pharmacy, or PharmD—the minimum educational requirement to become an informatics pharmacist. The most relevant undergraduate major would be pharmaceutical studies, but a discipline related to information technology would be appropriate, too. You should also focus on completing the prerequisites needed for entry into a PharmD program, including chemistry, biology, pharmacology, physiology, English and mathematics. The specific prerequisites may vary depending on the program you wish to enter, so try to research the requirements of your preferred school. At this time, courses relating to IT would also be helpful.
2. Pass the Pharmacy College Admissions Test
The Pharmacy College Admissions Test, or PCAT, is a standardized exam required for entry into a PharmD program. The exam comprises five sections—writing, biology, chemistry, critical reading and quantitative reasoning—and lasts approximately 3.5 hours. Pharmacy schools determine their own minimum acceptable scores for entry into their programs, so its a good idea to research the requirements of your preferred institutions.
3. Earn a PharmD
A PharmD program can take up to four years, during which you can expect coursework addressing drug design and the effects of various drugs on the human body. PharmD students also learn skills such as dispensing medication, advising patients and business competencies, such as accounting and logistics. If your pharmacy school offers a joint degree program in pharmacy and health informatics, its advisable to pursue this course, as it can provide you with a specialized education that directly prepares you for the role of an informatics pharmacist.
4. Complete your residency programs
The completion of two residency programs is necessary for specialized fields in pharmacy. Each program lasts one year. The first year, known as postgraduate year 1, or PGY1, focuses on building on the skills you learned in pharmacy school. PGY2 addresses your specialty practice, which in this case is pharmacy informatics.
5. Apply for licensure
An active license is necessary to practice in the field of pharmacy, as well as to obtain certain certifications. To obtain licensure, you must pass the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam, or NAPLEX, a six-hour assessment comprising 225 questions and scored on a scale of zero to 150. The minimum passing score is 75.
In addition to the NAPLEX, depending on where you intend to practice, you may also need to take the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam, or MPJE, which covers drug laws and regulations. This is a 2.5-hour assessment with 120 questions, for which the minimum passing score is also 75.
6. Pursue certifications
Having professional certification can set you apart from others in your field and allow you to earn more. Consider a widely recognized certification such as the Board Certified Pharmacotherapy Specialist, or BCPS, offered by the Board of Pharmacy Specialties. This certification validates your clinical competency and can improve your candidacy for informatics pharmacist positions.
Salary and job outlook for informatics pharmacists
Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.
What is the meaning of pharmacy informatics?
What does an informatics do?
What is a pharmacy informatics analyst?