Recently I read an interesting article in the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy. The question of what defines a pharmacy informaticist was raised. Iâ€™ve mused over that question many times myself. Because there is no standardized definition for a pharmacy informaticist, it is extremely difficult to define their role. A look at the many different job descriptions for IT pharmacists posted on the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) website is testimony to that.
Several key elements that contribute to the duties and expectations of an ideal pharmacy informaticist are discussed. They include:
1. Knowledge and understanding of pharmacy practice.
2. Knowledge and understanding of automation.
3. Project management skills.
4. Change-management skills.
5. Analytical skills.
6. Communications skills.
7. Understanding of basic software and database design.
8. Ability to follow program logic.
9. Familiarity with basic data management tools.
10. Familiarity with the automation devices currently available.
11. Familiarity with informatics standards and initiatives.
12. Risk analysis skills.
13. Acquisition/request for proposal (RFP) skills.
Unfortunately, the ideal definition fails to capture the current role of many pharmacy informaticists (a.k.a. IT Pharmacist, ISS Pharmacist, etc). Many IT pharmacists are involved in much more mundane tasks such as maintaining pharmacy formularies or creating and maintaining billing reports. Calls to investigate â€œprinter problemsâ€ or reset forgotten passwords are not uncommon. Many of these issues certainly do not require the knowledge base of an IT pharmacist and often times pull them away from other important tasks.
The article reminds me of the differences between the â€œclinical pharmacistsâ€ role defined in pharmacy school and the â€œclinical pharmacistsâ€ role I stepped into as a licensed pharmacists. The difference was eye-opening and a little disappointing. The ideal informaticist role described in the article sounds challenging and exciting, but the reality hasnâ€™t quite caught up with the expectation. While I believe advances in pharmacy technology demand a highly educated and skilled pharmacy informaticist, Iâ€™m afraid that the profession is still maturing and may take quite some time to evolve into the â€œidealâ€ practice.