6 Tips for Managing a Drug Information Center

FEBRUARY 08, 2018
The provision of evidence-based medication recommendations is an important role for pharmacists. Unfortunately, the number of drug information centers (DICs) may be dwindling in the United States. This may be the result of increased health information available through the internet and mobile applications. There were 89 DICs surveyed in 2008, and it was discovered that 75 or 84% were still in existence.1 Additionally, the study results showed that there was an increase in time spent educating health profession students and supporting the institutions' medication safety programs.1 After conducting a literature search, this was the last study I located documenting the existence of DICs in the United States. Pharmaceutical companies maintain their own in-house drug information services for their products.    

The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists provides guidance on the provision of drug information and the important role that pharmacists play.2 Pharmacists can contribute to biomedical literature, educate health care professionals, and provide drug information to consumers.2 Serving as a manager of a university-based DIC was a very rewarding experience. This is why I also think that DICs are so important and that they should actually be increasing in number. 

Here are 6 tips for managing a DIC:

1. Advertise the DIC. Make sure to advertise the services of the DIC at pharmacy conferences and when presenting at continuing education programs. This is a great way to get the word out about all the services the DIC offers. Create business cards to distribute to health care professionals and patients.

2. Answer a broad range of drug information questions. Whether practicing at a hospital or university DIC, responding to a broad range of questions will enhance a pharmacist's expertise. My DIC answered the following types of questions: compounding; dosing; drug interactions; drug shortages; international drugs; off-label drug use; pharmacy law; pill identification; pregnancy and lactation; and veterinary drugs.

3. Establish a good relationship with callers. Establishing a good relationship with health care professionals and patients requesting information is a must. The DIC will remain their trusted resource for drug information.  This relationship can be established through professionalism and quality information. Make sure to respond within 24 hours via the caller’s preferred method of email, fax, or phone. Also, be sure to provide references with all documentation.

4. Maintain an electronic database. Maintaining an electronic database will allow pharmacists to easily search for previous questions, and they will likely receive the same question multiple times. Create a monthly report that includes the number of requests and question category.
5. Provide community outreach drug information programs. Our DIC collaborated with the local sheriff’s office for drug disposal programs 1 Saturday each month. My rotation students and I assisted with documenting medications for disposal. Additionally, we used smartphone apps to identify pills and educated consumers about poison prevention. This provided a great educational opportunity for pharmacy students and police officers. Our DIC also educated seniors about the importance of vaccines and medication safety.
6. Provide in-service programs to health care professionals. Offering education to health care professionals is a great way to help colleagues stay up-to-date with drug information. Topics can include changes in pharmacy laws, medication safety, and new drug updates. This will help showcase the pharmacist's knowledge and increase drug information requests at the DIC.

1. Rosenberg JM, Schilit S, Nathan JP, Zerilli T, McGuire H. Update on the status of 89 drug information centers in the United States. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2009;66(19):1718-1722. doi: 10.2146/ajhp080563. 

2. Ghaibi S, Ipema H, Gabay M. ASHP guidelines on the pharmacist’s role in providing drug information. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2015;72(7):573-7. doi: 10.2146/sp15002.

Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh
Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh
Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh, received her PharmD degree from Nova Southeastern University (NSU) College of Pharmacy in 2006 and completed a 2-year drug information residency. She served as a pharmacy professor at NSU’s College of Pharmacy for 6 years, managed the drug information center, and conducted medication therapy management reviews. Dr. Gershman has published research on prescription drug abuse, regulatory issues, and drug information in various scholarly journals. Additionally, she received the Sheriff’s Special Recognition Award for her collaboration with the Broward, Florida Sheriff’s Office to prevent prescription drug abuse through a drug disposal program. She has also presented at pharmacist and physician continuing education programs on topics that include medication errors, prescription drug abuse, and legal and regulatory issues. Dr. Gershman can be followed on Twitter @jgershman2