Pharmacy Informatics – The Pharmacist, Librarian, and Pharmaceutical Scientist

Pharmacy Informatics by Philip O. Anderson: Book Cover

I was first alerted to the release of the new book Pharmacy Informatics via a blog post by @poikonen.  I took advantage of Amazon’s ‘Look Inside’ to check out the chapter titles and introduction.  That was enough for me, so I ordered it. I am really, really glad I did.

This textbook was created by three faculty members at the University of California, San Diego School of Pharmacy (along with area contributors) to accompany their forward-thinking pharmacy informatics course.  The authors bring a lot of credibility to the text as Phil Anderson is a very well known pharmacist in drug information and informatics circles, Susan McGuiness is a pharmacy librarian who is quite active in AACP, and Phil Bourne is the pharmaceutical scientist who is one of the more clever and creative fellows I have come across. 

The book basically delivers enough structure to create your own pharmacy informatics course.  It begins with a concise overview and the authors’ take on the meaning of pharmacy informatics (see Figure 1.1. above).  Then it sets the stage for why this specialty has developed and where it is going, touching on areas such as telepharmacy and personalized medicine.  The next major section “Prerequisites” helps provide a crash course in the basics surrounding computing and controlled vocabularies then finishes with a really well-done chapter on literature and the web.

From there the book moves onto ‘Information Systems’, breaking them down into hospital and pharmacy along with highlighting the role of informatics in avoiding medication errors.  This is also where a lot of the usual suspects make their first appearances – EHRs, bar coding, CPOE, smart pumps, etc.  I did think that this section missed a couple of opportunities.  Like many other references (and pharmacy education in general – of which I am a guilty party), it really only gave cursory attention to the community setting…despite the vast majority of pharmacists still going to that setting.  Even when it did include outpatient-specific aspects, like automated drug-dispensing machines and automated kiosks, I felt it did a bit of a disservice by not exploring the potential surrounding or psychosocial impact of these types of services.  This section also includes a couple of practically useful chapters on tertiary information sources and PDAs.  Perhaps the most interesting chapter of this section was “Pharmacy Informatics as a Career”.  While it may have been shoehorned in there, it serves as a really nice introduction to the specialty from what type of training is necessary to a pretty in-depth look at the evolution of a pharmacist with experience in different practice settings to a project leader and manager.  I also liked their 25-item informatics specialist job description.

Next was a very robust section on “Decision Support”.  It had a nice hat-tip to evidence based medicine as well as good coverage of classic clinical decision support and pharmacokinetics.  Unfortunately, I found the chapter on data mining (which I was most looking forward to in this section) was a little lacking.  The information there was superior, but I really would have liked to see additional depth, as this is such an exciting area for growth within pharmacy informatics.  The book ends with some forecasting and a peek into the near future (some of which is here now).  It provides a scenario that highlights possibilities for several Web 2.0 tools and approaches for information management and decision support.  It also hits two of my other favorite topics in social networking and open access (more on that in a moment).  The concluding chapter is a pragmatic look at where we can go and how to navigate the obstacles to get there.

Ok, back to the really cool stuff.  If you aren’t familiar with Bourne’s work and experiments with open access, peer review 2.0, and alternate/enhanced venues to disseminate scholarly work – you are missing out.  Don’t feel bad.  I stumbled across them in a variety of ways including seeing a live presentation by JOVE co-creator Moshe Pritsker at Medicine 2.0 a couple years ago, assigning my students and residents to watch some of the PLoS 10 Simple Rules collection (e.g. getting grants, getting published, making good poster and oral presentations, etc.), and reading blog posts about interactive visual posters (i.e., postercasts, pubcasts, etc.) that are housed at www.SciVee.tv.  Seriously, skip the clip of the ice skating monkey on YouTube and use those 5 minutes to go visit the 10 Simple Rules collection and SciVee!

Overall, Pharmacy Informatics is not flawless, but I found it to be as advertised or better.  It is especially timely as we are in the midst of examining education, credentialing, board certification, etc. in the ASHP SAG for pharmacy informatics education.  This book would serve as an excellent text for a course on pharmacy informatics and/or a great resource for a college of pharmacy looking to incorporate informatics into its curriculum.

@kevinclauson

Confessions of a Public Speaker (review)

I confess.  I am not a trained reviewer.  I have reviewed a few texts for biomedical journals, but that hardly qualifies.  However, I am going to share my thoughts on Confessions of a Public Speaker by Scott Berkun (@berkun).  I hope writing this review forces me to think holistically about the value of the resource.  And, since there is a constant stream of books being published, perhaps the review will even help someone else with their decision making process. 

Most of what I blog about is informatics-centric, but I am a faculty member and thus responsible for the holy trinity of teaching, research, and service.  So the questions: what makes a good teacher AND what makes a good lecturer, are both worth posing.  To that end I have made a more concerted effort to explore aspects of educational theory, visual design, etc. over the last 18 months.  I began with a couple primers (e.g. Presentation Zen, slide:ology) and recently picked up some other ‘classics’ and a few hot off the press. 

Confessions is the first book in my latest batch and its author sets the tone pretty early on.  He appears to be a happy renegade of sorts and uses fierce injections of humor to keep the reader engaged and interested.  It is at the opposite end of the spectrum from a traditional ‘how to’ book as it is narrative in nature and pulls considerably from Berkun’s own experiences.  Maybe because I have a traditionalist streak, the opening almost seemed like he was trying a bit too hard to be a from-the-hip maverick.  I briefly found myself wondering when the snappy stories would end and it would yield some value.  Well, I had a classic ‘good things come to those who wait’ moment, and did not have to wait very long at all.  Once I opened my eyes a bit, I realized that his very attitude towards speaking was of as much value as the instructional pieces.  Some of the advice, like how to approach dealing with mistakes you make during presentations or the requisite amount of practicing, seem pretty intuitive.  However, as Berkun himself points out, seeing something you already know in print or hearing it from an external expert can lend enough weight to prompt you to finally process and implement.

The book is definitely not limited to reinforcing previous lessons (un)learned.  It presents pragmatic pieces such as a solid four step method of preparation to avoid eating the microphone.  Berkun also focuses on crafting a proper title moreso than I have seen from many other experts in the field.  One thing I particularly like about Confessions is that it touches on seemingly mundane items that can make a big difference in the presentation and the presenter’s confidence.  There are clear, practical examples and recommendations for the ideal way to position a lavalier microphone, manage audience distribution in a lecture hall, and use confidence monitors and teleprompters.  There are also some nice cameos by science in discussing the power of silence to combat the dreaded ‘ums’, the impact of interference on retention, on-stage fight or flight, and the Dr Fox study.

Review Summary

The most compelling thing I can say is that I am completely certain that I got my $16.49 worth of knowledge, new approaches, and which existing ideas merit revisiting for public speaking.  Confessions of a Public Speaker reads in a very animated style making it accessible without sacrificing quality content or value.  I believe there is at least one pearl in the book for any novice to intermediate speaker (or teacher/professor).  The outwardly lighthearted approach does not detract in the least from its value.  Instead, it reinforces the sincerity of the author who believes communication skills are vital…and admits that while the lecture arena is not the ideal way to teach – gives plenty of tips on how to improve there.

@kevinclauson

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