Cindy J.Wordell, BS, PharmD
A career as a health-system pharmacist today traces its roots to the 1960s and the efforts of early leaders, such as Donald Francke at the University of Michigan and Paul Parker at the University of Kentucky. Their vision was to have pharmacists focus on the patient and optimizing drug therapy, and not just the drug itself as the product. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the role of health-system pharmacists expanded to include dosing of medications, education of patients and health care providers, and control of drug costs.
Three recent events have significantly influenced the opportunities available to health-system pharmacists and facilitated achieving the vision of the early pioneers for a patient-focused pharmacy practice. The first event was the publication in 2000 of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, To Err is Human, which emphasized the importance of an interdisciplinary team approach to improving medication safety. The second event was the publication of the Joint Commission's National Patient Safety Goals (NPSGs) in 2002 with the objective of improving patient safety in the health care system. As in the IOM report, an interdisciplinary process is encouraged. The NPSGs are revised annually, with those achieved goals removed from the list and new ones added. The NPSGs are frequently directed at drug therapy and often lead to new opportunities for pharmacists. The third event has been the growth in information technology, including automated dispensing machines, electronic medical records, and robotics. This has enabled the health-system pharmacist to move from the pharmacy to the patient bedside. These 3 events have resulted in many and varied opportunities for pharmacists. Health-system pharmacists can participate in drug therapy selection, improve medication safety, facilitate application of automation and informatics, and educate patients and other members of the health care team.