When I’m asked this question, it’s usually by someone who’s thinking about getting into this profession and looking for some clarification. Since we’re asked this question quite a bit, we decided to devote a post to the responses we received in a number of podcasts our firm produced over the last four months, which can be found on our resources page.
For pharmacists who have transitioned into this area, most would agree that the industry has not yet settled on an accepted definition. Although ASHP has defined what they feel an Informatics Pharmacist is, there’s not necessarily consistency in terms of how it’s used to describe the positions that are being created within hospitals across the country.
Hospitals may use the ASHP definition to create a position description for a newly created role within their pharmacy, but inevitably the description will be based upon tasks that the department and organization need to be performed within the new position. It’s at this point that the extra tasks that don’t seem to fall neatly into any position are sometimes included in the position being created.
The bottom line is, there are no common definitions that separate the two. At this point within the industry, there’s no standard that I’ve seen accepted broadly. Healthcare organizations are defining the skill and knowledge that need to be performed by someone in the pharmacy based on the technology and software that the pharmacy uses. The organization then decides if that person is better based in the pharmacy or the IT department.
In many organizations, this is influenced by which departments have the money for the position, or which department will have the ultimate responsibility for either implementing or supporting the technology once it’s been installed. The two are really defined by the responsibilities that are assigned to the specific positions within the organization. What I then find is that if the position resides in the pharmacy, then you have an Informatics Pharmacist; if the position resides in the IT department, then you have an IT Pharmacist.
Below are responses to this question from our podcast series.
In your opinion, what’s the difference between an IT Pharmacist and an Informatics Pharmacist?
“In my mind, an informatics pharmacist specializes or is knowledgeable in the total medication process, from ordering to administration, and is responsible for effective process design, development, and implementation of the Electronic Medical Record and Clinical Decision Support. The informatics pharmacist should support pharmacists, physicians, nurses, and other clinicians as the resource for requests related to PharmNet, PowerChart, Discern rule changes and additions.” — Tom Zogiab
“The informatics pharmacist, on the other hand, is more of a specialist who turns that pharmacy data into information. What I mean by that is, he/she will do an analysis of the pharmacy data, the clinical data, the cost data, and that type of functional data to improve clinical outcome, cost control and, ultimately, system optimization. One is more of a product specialist and the other takes that data and turns it into useful information.” — Dave Wolfe
“When I hear the term Informatics Pharmacist, I think of a clinically trained pharmacist using that knowledge to improve information systems as they relate to the medication-use process.” — Ron Burnett
“The informaticists do the same as the IT pharmacists but are more deeply involved in how systems are integrating with one another and how to use data between systems to help their fellow pharmacists up on the floors or in the main pharmacy to be able to do some different things.” — Dave Stansbury
“The IT Pharmacist is responsible for the technical aspects resulting from the information acquired from the informatics pharmacist and attempting to give the informatics pharmacist a working model of their request or vision of their electronic process.” — Tom Zogiab
“I view an IT Pharmacist as a functional expert who understands the implementation, the maintenance, and the workflow of the pharmacy system, and how they function and interface in other systems.” — Dave Wolfe
“When I hear the term IT Pharmacist, I think of a pharmacist working in the IT department as an analyst, who may or may not use a lot of their clinical background. ” — Ron Burnett
“The IT pharmacist is more the IT person in the pharmacy who is doing the day-to-day maintenance, upgrading systems, and a bit of interface.” — Dave Stansbury
“In the purest sense of the form, the informatics is about collecting, analyzing, pushing, and pulling data, and information technology is more about the hardware and the software, focusing more on how the operational things work inside of technology. If you look closely, those terms are really interchangeable inside a pharmacy. There’s no really great definition or differentiation between the two, and that’s indicative if you look at ASHP: the name of their section is the ASHP section for pharmacy informatics and technology. And if you look at job descriptions, they’re all over the board. Honestly, those two terms currently are interchangeable. I think the job, in itself, is in its infancy and so, as it continues to grow, I don’t know if those are eventually going to be separated back out or not. That’s currently how I see the difference and similarities between those two terms. So if you’re talking to somebody and you say informatics pharmacist or IT pharmacist, you’re basically talking about the same person.” — Jerry Fahrni
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