A multi-tiered health informatics curriculum in pharmacy

Button with graduation cap icon on a modern computer keyboard. Online education concept.

Over the last two years I have been fortunate to work with some real leaders in pharmacy informatics education. One of the most accomplished pioneers in this realm is Dr. Beth Breeden, who is the Director of the Master of Health Care Informatics (MHCI) program at the Lipscomb University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Nashville, TN. Pharmacy students at our University have a rare set of opportunities in informatics education, including a dual pharmacy-informatics program that is the second of its kind in the country. Pharmacy students can choose to concurrently complete a dual PharmD+MHCI or PharmD+Certificate in HCI. We also offer both summer internships and a specialty residency in partnership with Vanderbilt University focused on pharmacy informatics as well as related experiential and research opportunities to our students. It doesn’t hurt that Nashville has evolved into the health care capital of the country. But creating these types of health care informatics opportunities for pharmacy students is a challenge nationally for pharmacy and other health care educators, which is why the article described below was written. Hopefully the framework presented and specific examples described help educators working in even the most resource-challenged environs develop informatics opportunities for their students.

Development and implementation of a multitiered health informatics curriculum in a college of pharmacy.
Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association. 2016 Apr 27. pii: ocw023. doi: 10.1093/jamia/ocw023.
Breeden EA, Clauson KA.

Standards requiring education in informatics in pharmacy curricula were introduced in the last 10 years by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education. Mirroring difficulties faced by other health professions educators, implementation of these requirements remains fragmented and somewhat limited across colleges of pharmacy in the US. Clinical practice and workforce metrics underline a pronounced need for clinicians with varying competencies in health informatics. In response to these challenges, a multitiered health informatics curriculum was developed and implemented at a college of pharmacy in the Southeast. The multitiered approach is structured to ensure that graduating pharmacists possess core competencies in health informatics, while providing specialized and advanced training opportunities for pharmacy students, health professions students, and working professionals interested in a career path in informatics. The approach described herein offers institutions, administrators, faculty, residents, and students an adaptable model for selected or comprehensive adoption and integration of a multitiered health informatics curriculum.

mHealth Multidisciplinary Verticals

The summary and book chapter below represent our contributions to this text. The topic remains an area I have great enthusiasm about and high hopes for, when executed well.

Irrational use of medications is a global challenge, with the World Health Organization (WHO) estimating that “more than half of all medicines are prescribed, dispensed, or sold inappropriately”. This situation is exacerbated by half of all patients not taking their medications as intended, with non-adherence rates in disorders like schizophrenia reaching over 70%. Medication non-adherence and polypharmacy (i.e., use of multiple medications) are massive barriers to optimal medication management and are the source of substantial health and financial costs. Mobile health (mHealth) offers myriad methods to address these challenges, ranging from simple text message reminder systems to ecological momentary interventions (EMIs) to leveraging interface versatility for eHealth literacy solutions. In this chapter, current scientific evidence will be used to explore the role of mHealth in enhancing pharmacy-related outcomes in varying healthcare settings and diverse populations. Current and future developments in mHealth will be explored through the lens of select disease states and patient populations.


The potential of mHealth in pharmacy

mHealth_AJHP2013The next frontier in healthcare? The next step in patient-centered delivery of health services? Technology’s next overhyped bubble? There are grains of truth in all of these labels that have been given to mHealth. However, what is beyond debate is that there are opportunities with mHealth. In particular, I am optimistic about the opportunities with mHealth for pharmacists. To that end, I asked several colleagues to help outline the potential of this informatics arena. Those efforts were recently published as an article in the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacists (AJHP). My hopes are that this article serves to increase awareness of these opportunities and perhaps spurs some pharmacists to capitalize.


Source: Clauson KA, Elrod S, Fox BI, Hajar Z, Dzenowagis JH. Opportunities for pharmacists in mobile health. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2013;70(15):1348-1352.

Kevin A. Clauson, Pharm.D., is Associate Professor; and Shara Elrod, Pharm.D., is Assistant Professor, College of Pharmacy, Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale, FL. Brent I. Fox, Pharm.D., Ph.D., is Associate Professor, Harrison School of Pharmacy, Auburn University, Auburn, AL. Zaher Hajar, Pharm.D., is Fellow in Consumer Health Informatics, College of Pharmacy, Nova Southeastern University. Joan H. Dzenowagis, Ph.D., is Senior Scientist e-Health World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland.

What do pharmacy students think about #socialmedia for education?

TLM2013Dr. John Sandars has been looking at the roles of technology in medical education for many years. So when we decided to look at use of social media by pharmacy students (and their thoughts in particular on its use in education and engagement) I sought him out. As with any good collaboration, everybody brings a little bit to the table, and this one was no exception. Our articleSocial media use and educational preferences among first-year pharmacy students” was recently published in the journal Teaching and Learning in Medicine.


Helping Your Patients Make Sense of the mHealth Marketplace

One of my favorite developments within the Florida Society of Health-System Pharmacists (FSHP) has been membership’s growing interest in informatics. Of course, there are FSHP members who have been active in informatics for 20+ years, but the increased focus on it in the last 5 or so has been particularly encouraging.

To that end, I was asked to present this year at FSHP Annual on one of my favorite topics – patients’ use of mobile health (mHealth) apps to enhance their self-management. The expanded slide deck from my FSHP presentation is below. 


Pharmacy students’ perceptions of Web 2.0 tools in education

A new journal, Future Learning, launched this year aims to provide “the current best thinking, research, and innovation for the effective utilization of technology for educators in higher education, professional education, workplace learning, continuing education, and life-long learning”. The inaugural special issue was on Social Media and Learning, and I am happy to have been able to help contribute an article to it.  That issue (and hence our article, “Thematic analysis of pharmacy students’ perceptions of Web 2.0 tools and preferences for integration in educational delivery”) can be accessed for free via the journal’s download form here. Alternately, all abstracts from the issue can be read here. The journal arena is a crowded one, but I have high hopes for this effort by editor Dr. Lisa Gulatieri (@LisaGulatieri) and their Board.



Using clickers to engage pharmacy students across multiple campuses

Click to access free full-text

When you teach at a University with multiple campuses (in our case, Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach in Florida and Ponce in Puerto Rico) even with live, interactive videoconferencing – you have to try and figure out ways to connect with your students at different sites. We’ve tried different methods over the years with varying success, but one that worked well early on was the use of  an audience response system (aka clickers). This is something I talked about previously in the presentation, “The Science Behind Engaging Students in Class“.

Our recent article in the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education basically describes our multi-campus implementation and measurement of its impact on student engagement, satisfaction, and opinions about projected use of clickers in other courses. We also touched on related issues, such as clickers’ possible role in helping desensitize communication apprehension in students.


Clauson KA, Alkhateeb FM, Singh-Franco D. Concurrent use of an audience response system at a multi-campus college of pharmacy. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education. 76(1):6.

Launching a Center for Consumer Health Informatics Research

We are very excited that the Nova Southeastern University College of Pharmacy has officially launched our Center for Consumer Health Informatics Research (CCHIR)! Like all undertakings of this magnitude, it has been in the works for some time and has benefited from tremendous support from many corners – in particular the Chair of the Department of Pharmacy Practice and the Dean of the College of Pharmacy. Below is a presentation outlining some basics about the Center. I look forward to working with its faculty and collaborators and steering the CCHIR toward many great developments in the future.



UPDATE: The dedicated site is up at www.CCHIR.com

Texting for Diabetes @ Medicine 2.0’11 Stanford

For Medicine 2.0 (#med2) at Stanford this month, I am excited to be delivering a Research in Progress presentation of our study,  “Impact of Texting and Predictive Potential of Health Literacy on Medication Adherence in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus”. The study, supported by the McKesson Foundation Mobilizing for Health grant program, aims to help a diverse and largely uninsured and underinsured population in South Florida improve adherence to the medications they take for type 2 diabetes mellitus. Our study intervention is designed as a simple series of text messages through treatment targeting one of the primary hurdles to optimal medication adherence – reminders. I will also be sharing our plan for integrating health literacy assessments and disease state knowledge into the clinic EHR as a means to provide more patient-centric counseling and support. Our hope is that we produce an effective intervention to improve health which is also low-cost and thus ultimately scalable. There are a lot of scary numbers being bandied about for diabetes such as its $174 billion annual cost and forecasts that as many as 1 in 3 Americans could develop diabetes by 2050; it would be massive if this contribution could assist in stemming the tide.

Beyond being surrounded by a great study team, I have also been fortunate that providers at our primary care clinic partners have become very enthused about the study. We actually amended our original protocol to account for the fact that physicians at other clinics within the Memorial Healthcare System approached us and volunteered to help recruit participants.

Over the years, Mednet and its offspring, the Medicine 2.0 Congress have been among the most ambitious, surprising, and practically beneficial conferences I’ve attended.  Every year I see new attendees from seemingly disparate areas and sectors that come and then find commonalities that produce stimulating discussions, research collaborations, business ventures, and even friendships. This year will continue that tradition with the pre-conference lineup at the Stanford Summit on September 16, 2011 and the two-day Medicine 2.0 conference proper that follows on September 17th and 18th.  I will be there to share our research to date and eager to participate in the other sessions. I hope to see you there too!