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Why is it important for the Board of Pharmacy Specialties (BPS) to recognize pharmacy informatics as a specialty?

A longstanding obstacle to developing a meaningful certification for pharmacy informatics is that a lot of training is tethered closely to specific vendor training and certification. There is much more to the professional landscape than knowing any particular application as a pharmacist. Information technology will forever change and evolve, but the practice to bringing it to life in healthcare requires foundational knowledge and experience in concepts like project and change management. Having board certification helps provide a recognition of those skills that are necessary to successfully roll-out and sustain technology and applications fully across the medication use process. Emphasizing the “sustain” piece of that, because it is more than just getting the work done quickly. Ignoring best practices and long-term strategies are costly. For those of us that have been in this field for a long time, we know flexibility is extremely important to meet the end-user experience. But we also know that massive medication databases are not designed in a vacuum either and takes an intricate understanding how information is used across all avenues of the medication use process. There are costs and benefits to every customization and variation introduced to a world that is meant to interact across different end-users, applications, organizations, and beyond.

Most vendors determine success by how quickly implementation occurs and the happiness of the individuals using the product. That is great for the short term, but it is not unusual to sacrifice a lot of possible synergies longer term. This is not just true with the amount of informatics staff to maintain the decisions made at onset. There is no better way to commit care variation into practice than to cement that variation into your healthcare IT systems.

Once your application is turned on in production, the easy part is done. Correct, the easy part. Anyone that owns a house can appreciate that maintaining it is a commitment. But also remodeling an existing structure is much more complicated than building it the first round. This goes back to making good decisions at implementation, as well as the complexity of what optimization requires.

Then we do it all over again. There have been many lifecycles of different electronic health records and other applications along the way. The only guarantee is that there will be more change, integration, and complexity. As much change informaticists create, there is a reality that we must evolve too as professionals for the next big thing.

Clinical informatics board certification has existed for nursing since 1992 and 2014 for physicians, and it is time for pharmacy informatics to join the club.1,2 If done right, a quality board certification in pharmacy informatics prioritizes the points I just highlighted. The premise for clinical informatics board examination for physicians is “not to create an examination that would assess all aspects of the domain nor to test a candidate’s knowledge of the latest-breaking medical news of the day but, instead, create an examination that is specifically designed to test the basic lasting concepts within the field of Clinical Informatics.”2 That seems like a good path to follow.

Specialty residency training in pharmacy informatics should be an easy steppingstone into board certification. The competency areas, goals, objectives, and real-life practicum pretty much defines what board certification is. At the same time, I would support residency not being the only steppingstone. The school of hard knocks provides a lot of credibility in this field. For physicians, they have kept a practice pathway open until 2025, and then the board exam will only be open to those who have completed an accredited fellowship.3

So what is next steps to board certifying pharmacists? The Board of Pharmacy Specialties (BPS) has been actively working this year on a pharmacoinformatics job analysis and recruiting subject-matter-experts to collect perspectives in making this a potentially new certification option. I look forward to providing my expertise!

  1. Cummins, M. R., et al. “Nursing Informatics Certification Worldwide: History, Pathway, Roles, and Motivation.” Yearbook of Medical Informatics, vol. 25, no. 01, 2016, pp. 264–271,
  2. Lehmann, Christoph, et al. “Five Years of Clinical Informatics Board Certification for Physicians in the United States of America.” Yearbook of Medical Informatics, vol. 27, no. 01, 2018, pp. 237–242,
  3. "Clinical Informatics Subspecialty.” AMIA, Accessed 3 July 2023.