Sadly #ASHP misses the mark

I’ve been an ASHP member off and on for much of my career. I’m not much for membership in organizations, but I thought ASHP would be worthy. Heck, they’re the biggest professional pharmacy organization in the country (world?), why wouldn’t I be a member.

I try to give them the benefit of the doubt, but sometimes I wonder who’s driving the bus. I believe ASHP’s goals should be to: 1) promote the profession, 2) improve the profession, 3) defend the profession from nefarious sorts, , and 4) offer guidance to help move the profession into the future. That’s it. Read into it what you will, but pharmacists and technicians pay to be members of ASHP. Why? Because they believe ASHP will make pharmacy better. Otherwise there’s no point.

I’ve dabbled in some of the small groups within AHSP, specifically the Section of Pharmacy Informatics and Technology (SOPIT). These small groups focus on specific issues within the profession. Their purpose is to come up with solutions and recommendations. And in the case of the SOPIT the goal is to help solve problems associated with pharmacy informatics, automation and technology within the practice of pharmacy. It’s actually a good group that has done some great things over the years.

One of these groups in particular had great promise as it brought together several companies in the industry to look at the problem associated with informational standards; particularly drug information updates to pharmacy formularies. One of the problems with information within formularies (drug dictionaries, drug masters, <insert other name here>) is that standards simply don’t exist. Everyone has their own way of doing it, which causes problems.

While serving as the IT pharmacist at my last facility I had to manually maintain several formularies: pharmacy information system, ADC’s, pharmacy inventory management system, barcode labeling system, online hospital formulary, etc. It was time consuming and fraught with error. And before you ask, yes I made mistakes in those systems that caused problems; problems that were a bear to fix.

The group mentioned above was brought together to look at this problem and propose a method for companies to collaborate with the sole purpose of bringing a single standard to the practice that could be utilized to populate hospital formularies in a “downhill” fashion, i.e. one formulary update delivered to a centralized location that could be pushed out to other formularies. One standard. One location to update. One  formulary to monitor. One formulary to maintain. Simple. Fewer errors. Less work. Better for the profession.

Unfortunately AHSP decided to kill the project. I’m greatly disappointed in ASHP for doing this.

Here’s the email I received from ASHP. Emphasis is mine:

From: (name redacted)
Sent: Monday, July 16, 2012 7:01 PM
To: Jerry Fahrni
Subject: ASHP Section of Pharmacy Informatics and Technology’s Project Team on Formulary Interoperability – UPDATE

On behalf of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacy’s Section of Pharmacy Informatics and Technology (SOPIT) Executive Committee, we regret to inform you that ASHP must terminate support and involvement with the Project Team on Formulary Interoperability due to the potential for conflicts of interest.

Your support, volunteerism and hard work on behalf of the SOPIT are greatly appreciated.  It is our sincere hope that this decision will in no way dampen your enthusiasm or diminish your interest and engagement in the Section and its many important activities.

The rationale for this decision is simply that the development of working prototypes and/or potential, marketable software products has raised important concerns about governance, ownership, transparency and fairness to all parties, including, but not limited to, ASHP members and corporate supporters of ASHP.

To properly address the issues of potential conflict of interest and to create policies related to Section software prototyping and development activities will take time.

As a result, the Executive Committee of the Section has prudently decided to stop action and terminate ASHP’s involvement in the Project Team on Formulary Interoperability.

Naturally, ASHP and SOPIT remain committed to supporting formulary initiatives unrelated to software development and, therefore, we invite you to continue to participate in the work of the Section intended to draft guidelines, policies and share best practices with respect to formulary interoperability. The Section Advisory Group on Pharmacy Operations Automation will continue this work this year. More information about the SAG can be found here:

Thank you for your continued dedication and for your efforts to support SOPIT and ASHP.

(name redacted)

The funniest part is that the link they provide in the email takes you to one of the informatics group pages. The group is “charged with” working “with the Formulary Interoperability Project Team on a white paper related to specifications and requirements to ensure inter-operability and standardization for communication of data across databases, technology and information systems.” Really? Someone should have removed that before sending out the email above. It makes ASHP appear as though the left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing. That’s a leadership issue.

And here’s the email I sent back:

(name redacted)

I’m greatly disappointed with ASHP’s decision to withdraw support for the formulary interoperability project.  I was utterly stunned while reading the email as this is clearly not in line with the public message provided by ASHP. From ASHP’s own Mission statement: “The mission of ASHP is to advance and support the professional practice of pharmacists in hospitals and health systems and serve as their collective voice on issues related to medication use and public health.” And from ASHP’s Vision statement: “Will take a leadership role to continuously improve and redesign the medication-use process with the goal of achieving significant advances in (a) patient safety, (b) health-related outcomes, (c) prudent use of human resources, and (d) efficiency.” ASHP has not only failed to meet these goals and objectives, but has purposely sidestepped them for fear of some potential future problem.

While I understand ASHP’s concern I believe it to misplaced and short-sided. The benefits from such a project are far reaching and have the potential to improve operational efficiency for the entire industry. I ask you, what organization will provide the impetus to pursue a goal of improving system formulary interoperability for pharmacy practice if not ASHP?   Is there another group with the resources and voice to reach a majority of our profession? I think not.

ASHP has clearly missed the mark with this decision. What a shame.


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