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Learning Objectives

After completing this chapter, the reader will be able to

  • Define the term drug information, used in different contexts, and relate it to the term medication information.

  • Identify the services provided by drug information centers.

  • Describe the skills needed to perform medication information functions.

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

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

  • Describe how the increase in cost of health care has expanded the role of medication information specialists.

  • Describe practice opportunities for a medication information specialist.

Key Concepts

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

  2. Medication information provision has evolved in the last 50 years as focus has shifted to medication safety, advances in informatics, evidence-based medicine, and new environments of care.

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

  4. Medication information specialists must keep abreast of advances in information technology.

  5. Medication literature evaluation skills are essential.

  6. Leadership and career opportunities exist in a variety of settings for medication information specialists.


The United States (U.S.) health care system is undergoing important changes, which is offering challenges and opportunities for health care providers, insurers, caregivers, and consumers. Several factors are driving these changes including new regulations in health care (e.g., expanded coverage for preventive care for patients of all ages, coverage regardless of preexisting conditions, the mandate for all Americans to acquire health insurance, expansion of Medicaid), the continued pressure to reduce health care costs, and the need to improve efficiency, quality, and safety of care.1-3 The appropriate use of pharmaceuticals continues to be an essential element in this process because drugs represent a significant portion of the health care dollars spent in the United States. Total health care system spending on medication reached $320 billion in 2011, an increase of about $50 billion since 2006 and $125 billion since 2002.2 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.

The provision of medication information is among the most fundamental responsibilities of pharmacists. ❶ Medication information may be patient-specific, or developed for a given patient population, such as therapeutic guidelines, communication of a national quality initiative, coordination of an adverse drug event reporting and analysis program, publication of an electronic newsletter, or updating a Web site. The pharmacist can serve as a resource for issues regarding cost-effective medication selection and use, medication policy decisions (drug benefits), medication information resource selection, or practice-related issues. Medication information opportunities ...

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