Issues with translating prescription information into other languages in pharmacies

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There was a recent news item taken from an article in Pediatrics examining what happens when computerized language assistance services (LAS) are imperfect.  It focused on the erroneous translation of prescription information from English to Spanish in pharmacies in New York and possible consequences.  That was similar to an aspect of our LAS research we highlighted in an interview in The Oncology Pharmacist several months ago.  We are examining related problems as well, including low- and high-tech solutions to varying issues with LAS (e.g. automated LAS kiosks, natural language processing, pictographs).  In December 2009, we presented a poster of the results of a national survey of the use of language assistance services (sometimes called language access services) in community pharmacies.  One of the major concerns in using LAS cited by pharmacists (52.1%) in our study was about mistakes made with translations (written) and interpretations (verbal).  Their concerns appear to be at least somewhat justified based on the results of the Pediatric study.  This is a contributing factor as to why almost half (49.8%) of pharmacists in our survey who have LAS fail to notify their patients of its availability.


Informatics Masters and Certificate Programs in the US

I teach in our University’s Master of Science in Biomedical Informatics (MSBI) program.  We also have a Medical Informatics Certificate program, a Public Health Informatics Certificate program, and offer a MSBI in Portugal.  However, this isn’t a commercial or sponsored post.  This information is simply to provide some context as to why I am interested in seeing a centralized source of information for all post-bac informatics programs.  More importantly, our Section Advisory Group for Pharmacy Informatics Education in the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) is also looking at this topic and relevant issues for pharmacy.

It would be nice – if similar to the list of hospitals using social media maintained by @EdBennett, the Google spreadsheet of journals with a Twitter presence by @laikas or the Pharma and healthcare social media wiki by @jonmrich – that there was also a comprehensive list of informatics programs.  Ideally it would be broken down into searchable fields (e.g., online/live/mixed delivery models, thesis or non-thesis, clinical or non-clinical focus, college(s) at the university involved, participation in AMIA 10×10, AMIA Academic Forum membership, tuition, etc.) and program titles (e.g., bioinformatics, biomedical informatics, health informatics, health informatics management, medical informatics, security informatics, etc.).

There are several particularly interesting informatics programs in addition to the MSBI at Nova Southeastern University.  For instance, the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Health Informatics program appears to try to cater to individual professions.  As an example, they list Pharmacy Informatics as a specialty with dedicated pages.  Minnesota also has a promising combined MD/MHI program housed in the Institute for Health Informatics (IHI).  The IHI also has the best video overview for a program I have seen so far:

My alma mater (The University of Tennessee) has a Master of Health Informatics and Information Management program, but it is offered through their College of Allied Health Sciences rather than via their college of pharmacy or medicine.  A partial list of US institutions with post-bac informatics programs I have come across thus far include: Capella University, Drexel University Online, Eastern Michigan University, Emory University, Harvard-MIT, Indiana University, Johns Hopkins University, Medical College of Georgia, Milwaukee School of Engineering, Northeastern University, Northwestern University, Nova Southeastern University, Rochester Institute of Technology, Saint Louis University, Stanford University, University of Alabama, University of California (Davis), University of Central Florida, University of Iowa, University of Maryland, University of Minnesota, University of Missouri, University of Pittsburgh, University of Phoenix, University of Tennessee, University of Texas (El Paso), University of Utah, University of Wisconsin (Milwaukee), Vanderbilt University, and Walden University.  Programs that only offer a PhD in informatics are not included in the sample of institutions above.

Some pretty cool training programs such as the CDC’s Public Health Informatics Fellowship and several pharmacy informatics residencies are also available for those in different stages of their careers.

A few websites have collected some of the post-bac informatics programs, but they generally suffer from a combination of missing programs, incomplete information, and (in some cases) are eerily reminiscent of some of the link bait ‘top 50 blog’ sites.  Maybe a comprehensive, searchable site already exists and someone will point it out to me?  Or perhaps I’ll add it to my ‘to do’ list.


Posted via web from kevinclauson’s posterous

Meet the Consumer Health Informatics Subspecialty!

Pharmacy is a profession in healthcare.  Pharmacy informatics is a specialty within this profession. It is not yet one of the recognized specialty areas by the Board of Pharmaceutical Specialties, but it is a specialty nonetheless.  Consumer health informatics is a subspecialty within informatics, and can be integrated with pharmacy or any other profession in healthcare.  My path has led to immersion in the possibilities associated with consumer health informatics.

Consumer health informatics (CHI), like medical informatics, health informatics, and pharmacy informatics, suffers from a bit of an identity crisis – or at least a lack of consensus terminology.  The two working definitions for CHI that I am particular to are:

“…analyses consumers’ needs for information; studies and implements methods of making information accessible to consumers; and models and integrates consumers’ preferences into medical information systems.”

British Medical Journal article by Eysenbach

“…studies from a patient/consumer perspective the use of electronic information and communication to improve medical outcomes and the health care decision-making process.”

American Medical Informatics Association’s

CHI Working Group

One of the most attractive elements of CHI was also summarized quite nicely in the review by Eysenbach:

“Consumer informatics stands at the crossroads of other disciplines, such as nursing informatics, public health, health promotion, health education, library science, and communication science…it is paving the way for health care in the information age.”

There is much to appreciate in the inherent collaborative and participatory nature of the CHI subspecialty.  Because of its characteristics, aspects of Web 2.0/social media are also frequently included under the CHI umbrella.  The interdisciplinary approach of CHI was born out of necessity and offers the chance to capitalize on the strengths of multiple professions and ultimately improve outcomes.  I look forward to exploring the promise of CHI and its potential impact on the constantly changing world of healthcare.


[Note: Thanks to Chad Hardy (@pillguy) for the invitation as a blog contributor at]