What’s Your Definition Of An Informatics Pharmacist?

Primarily when I get asked this question it is by someone who is thinking about getting into this profession and they are looking for some clarification.   Since we get asked this question quite a bit, we decided to put up a post highlighting the responses we received to this question in a number of podcasts our firm did over the last four months.

For pharmacists that have transitioned into this area, most would agree that the industry has not yet settled on an accepted definition.  Although American Society of Health System Pharmacists (ASHP) has defined what they feel an Informatics Pharmacist is, there is not necessarily consistency in how it is 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 on tasks that the department and organization need to be performed within the new position. It is at this point where the extra tasks that don’t seem to fall neatly into “any” position that are sometimes included in the new position that is being created.

The bottom line is, there are just not common definitions that separate the two.  At this point within the industry, there is no standard that I can say I have seen accepted broadly.  Healthcare organizations are defining the skill and knowledge that need to be performed by someone in the pharmacy as it relates to the technology and software that the pharmacy uses.  The organization then decides if that person is best based in the pharmacy or the I.T. department.

This is influenced in many organizations by which departments has the money for the position or which department will have the ultimate responsibility for either implementing or supporting the technology once it has 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 if the positions resides in the pharmacy you now have an Informatics Pharmacist but if the position resides in the I.T. department you now have an I.T. Pharmacist.

Below are responses to this question from our podcast series http://healthcareis.com/podcasts.html

In your opinion, what is the difference between an I.T. Pharmacist and an Informatics Pharmacist?

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

IT Pharmacist

“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 is a functional expert who understand 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 I.T. Pharmacist I think of a pharmacist working in the I.T. 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 their 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

Interested in pharmacy informatics or curious about what types of jobs are available in this field?   Feel free to visit our website to learn more!

About the author


David Kushan

David Kushan is the President of Healthcare IS and has spent the last 18 years of his career working in the Healthcare Information Technology industry assisting over 120 healthcare organizations nationwide. Visit www.HealthcareIS.com for Dave’s company blog, articles, podcasts and more.