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Learning Objectives

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After completing this chapter, the reader will be able to

  • Define the term drug information and how it has changed as practiced currently.

  • Identify the services provided by drug information specialists.

  • Describe the skills needed to perform drug information responsibilities.

  • Identify major factors that have influenced the ability to provide drug information.

  • Describe how the expanding integration of information technology has changed the methods of searching, analyzing, and providing drug information to patients and health care professionals.

  • Describe practice opportunities for a drug information specialist.

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Key Concepts

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  • 1 Drug information may be patient-specific or developed for a given patient population.

  • 2 Drug information provision has evolved over the last 50 years as focus has shifted to medication safety, advances in pharmacy informatics, evidence-based medicine, formulary management, medication policy development, and new environments of care.

  • 3 With computerized medical records and order entry systems, drug information specialists can take a leadership role in incorporating automated interventions that improve safety and provide education at the point of prescribing.

  • 4 Drug information specialists and clinical specialists must keep abreast of advances in information technology.

  • 5 Biomedical literature evaluation skills are essential for all health care professionals.

  • 6 Leadership and career opportunities exist in a variety of settings for a drug information specialist.

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Introduction

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The United States (U.S.) health care system is undergoing important changes, which is offering challenges and opportunities for health care professionals, insurers, caregivers, and consumers. Several factors are driving these changes including new regulations in health care, continued pressure to reduce health care costs, and need to improve efficiency, quality, and safety of care.1–3 The appropriate use of medications continues to be an essential element in this process because it represents a significant portion of the health care dollars spent in the United States. Total health care system spending on medications reached $2.23 trillion in 2015. Within nonfederal hospitals and clinics, medication expenditures exceeded $56 billion.2 The use of “specialty drugs” such as those for hepatitis C, cancer, cystic fibrosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and pulmonary arterial hypertension have contributed greatly to the increased medication expenditures. The availability of patient-, disease-, and medication-specific information, and a knowledgeable decision maker are integral components of providing a system that supports the safe and appropriate use of medications.

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The provision of drug information is among the most fundamental responsibilities of all pharmacists. 1 Drug information may be patient-specific, or developed for a given patient population, such as development of therapeutic guidelines, communication of a national quality initiative, coordination of an adverse drug event reporting and monitoring program, publication of newsletters, or updating websites. The pharmacist can serve as a resource for issues regarding cost, medication selection and use, medication policy decisions, medical and drug information resource selection, or medication information and education.

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Changes in health care drive increased opportunities for providing drug information, ...

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