The emerging pharmacy informatics specialty is taking the hybrid healthcare informatics field to a new level by making the practice of prescribing and administering medications more precise. Drawing on both medical knowledge and computer science, this field uses complex computer technology to improve patient outcomes.
A Look at Pharmacy Informatics
Pharmacy informatics is defined by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists as the integration and use of knowledge, information, technology, data and automation in the medication-use process. The practice is meant to streamline patient care and outcomes while enhancing efficiency and accuracy in the administration of medications.
Often coinciding with the use of electronic health records (EHR), pharmacy informatics is being used to replace paper-and-pen prescriptions to provide more precision and clarity for medication suppliers. Although not perfect, this technological practice has fast proven itself effective as an aid to error prevention while streamlining operations, information sharing and more.
Examples of the effective use of pharmacy informatics are abundant. The Cleveland Clinic, for example, has used technology to make its smart pumps even smarter. The clinic used informatics to better program its alert alarms while reducing the risk for infusion pump programming errors related to high-risk medications. These medications have been programmed in the clinic’s pumps to run as primary infusions, not secondary. The use of secondary medications along with high-risk medications has also been prohibited in its smart pumps.
The Veterans Administration uses its Computerized Prescriber Order Entry (CPOE) systems to gain better control over prescriptions for controlled substances. Its system requires a two-factor authentication in order for controlled drugs to be prescribed.
In Virginia, the Carillion Clinic is using an electronic medical records (EMR) system to provide post-discharge pharmacy consultations remotely. This has opened the door for more collaborative practice wherein a physician can order medications and provide the pharmacist access to the entire patient record for review of current medications, patient medical history, laboratory information and more.
Opportunities in the Field
As EHRs are implemented nationwide, the demand for pharmacy informatics specialists is growing. Professionals in this field are tasked with the development, implementation and application of technology related to pharmacological practices. They help develop best practices and work to continually improve on them to better patient outcomes. Informatics specialists work with computers and technology, but they may also have a medical background that comes from advanced clinical training in pharmaceuticals.
The health informatics field is one of the fastest growing segments of the healthcare field today. Graduate degree and certificate programs can help professionals gain the educational background needed to pursue an informatics career.