Career Spotlight: Informatics Pharmacist

The informatics pharmacist, also known by many other titles such as information systems pharmacist or pharmacy systems administrator, is a speciality within the field of pharmacy that focuses on the many aspects of technology that support pharmacy operations, most often in the institutional setting. For purposes of consistency within this post, we will refer to this position title as the informatics pharmacist. There is not one clear path to become an informatics pharmacist. However, this sort of specialty will most likely require a licensed pharmacist to adept with utilizing technology to support the needs of the pharmacy for the goal of building an efficient, reliable, and dedicated pharmacy system. These days, much healthcare information, such as patient medical records, is communicated and recorded electronically within computer databases. These computer databases are usually part of an integrated software application used by hospitals. The pharmacy system is most likely a part of this integrated software application, known to many as electronic health records (EHR). EHRs allow healthcare practitioners to communicate quickly and effectively because using one centralized database system allows for consistent information to be recorded, as opposed to a fragmented repository in one database, and other information in various other databases.

The informatics pharmacist works with the EHR team and with the pharmacy staff to coordinate medication information so that the healthcare organization will be on the same page. Much of these duties include activities a licensed pharmacist will be best capable of performing for the EHR team such as but not limited to the configuration of settings for medications, their costs, strengths available, proper dosages, inventory of ndc numbers, route of administration, times of administration, drug interactions, allergy information, basic drug information, infusion rates, dilution recommendations, and instructions for preparation. The informatics pharmacist will also build order sets of these medications rooted on hospital protocols, medication usage reports for pharmacy management and clinical staff, train pharmacy staff, provide news and updates about technology issues, prepare downtime instructions when the EHR shuts down, provide technical support for software/hardware issues, manage the automated dispensing cabinets, managing cartfill settings, manage pharmacy label printers and labels, total parenteral nutrition (TPN) systems, managing smartpump medication configurations, as well as many other roles. Needless to say, this requires a lot of knowledge of hospital pharmacy operations and management needs. A workload of this magnitude usually involves a team of pharmacy informatics specialists depending on the size of the healthcare organization. These specialists may attend many meetings such as the pharmacy therapeutics committee (P&T) to know what new medications to add, old ones to delete or to change. They may also attend antimicrobial stewardship committees, healthcare informatics group, and other upper-level management meetings.

So how does one become an informatics pharmacist? As mentioned previously, there is not one path. Having a pharmacy license and experience within an healthcare institution should be required. As far as having the knowledge required for understanding the technology aspects of the position, there are many different possibilities such as a pharmacist who learns on the job and is able to understand the intricacies of technology, a pharmacist who is also a trained information technology (IT) specialist whether through school or from a prior job, and also the post-graduate opportunities that are now available for pharmacy school graduates that offer pharmacy informatics residencies. These are usually the various paths taken by current informatics pharmacist to obtain their position. The hours of work are usually a Monday to Friday normal day shift schedule, with off-hour on-call support. The compensation is usually competitive given the dual skills required to perform the job. Needless to say, it could be an exciting and rewarding career for those interested in both pharmacy and technology.

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