The Nontraditional Pharmacist
Matt Paterini, Nick Kirkpatrick, and Lynn Switaj are the creators of The Nontraditional Pharmacist (www.thenontraditionalpharmacist.com) and PharmD graduates of the University of Michigan with a passion for exploring nontraditional roles in pharmacy. Matt works for IBM, Nick for CVS, and Lynn for Walgreen's. Their website is a central information source designed to help pharmacists and pharmacy students gain exposure to unique roles for pharmacists.
Pharmacist David Vu has a nontraditional role as a QA engineer and project manager at Kit Check, and is also a champion of pharmacy informatics. He chatted with Matt Paterini from the Nontraditional Pharmacist podcast. Here are some highlights:
Matt: Tell us about yourself and describe your day-to-day responsibilities on the job.
David: I graduated in May 2018 from VCU School of Pharmacy, and I work as a project manager and QA engineer for a health IT company called Kit Check, which focuses on improving pharmacy workflow by providing automated medication management solutions.
I primarily work on Bluesight for Controlled Substances, which is a management tool that provides 100% audit coverage of controlled substances. In a lot of hospitals, the current method of drug diversion detection is a really manual process which requires sifting through large volumes of data from different systems. Bluesight takes that information and applies machine learning algorithms to detect abnormal patterns in provider behavior and to surface any type of outliers to investigate.
My work mainly consists of feature testing, data analysis, and working on customer implementation from a data perspective and making sure that everything is happening in a very timely manner. I touch nearly every team in my company—I join the implementation team on customer calls, help support with understanding logic codes, and work with the engineering team to provide clinical content for feature requests that we have.
The QA engineer role is actually really similar to being a pharmacist. A pharmacist looks at prescriptions to make sure nothing is wrong and to determine clinical relevancy for that medication and patient. They'll make recommendations to the doctors and remedy any issues. The same thing applies in my QA engineer position—we identify problems in the source code and make recommendations to developers to fix that.
As a project manager, I manage the implementation timelines for our hospitals that are going live with Bluesight for Controlled Substances. As the only pharmacist in the engineering team, I’m a really accessible resource to the rest of my team to answer any type of pharmacy workflow or clinical questions they have. I also do a lot of the coding for our hospitals. So being able to understand functionality and how the end user would perceive our software helps make a good product.
Matt: How does your professional work impact you personally?
David: My No. 1 goal is to be able to impact patients in a grand scale. That's why entered healthcare technology, because I would be able to not only affect 1 patient, but many patients downstream. Even though I don't have the 1-on-1 patient interaction that I had when I was working in retail pharmacy, I’m really satisfied knowing that the work that I do can have long lasting contributions to overall patient health. By doing a little bit of coding, I can provide some value to a clinician or a pharmacist to free up their time and release some of their pain points so they can do what's important, which is helping their patients.
Matt: What advice would you give to pharmacy students, or even pharmacists, if they're looking to pursue a career, or maybe make a career change in the pharmacy informatics realm?
David: The biggest advice I would give someone is really to have a questioning attitude. I look at some process or technology and I think, 'How could this be faster? How could this be better? How could this be more efficient?' A lot of times we think about that stuff, but we feel disempowered: 'This is out of my control,' or 'corporate is dealing with it,' or 'if I make any recommendations then my voice isn't going to be heard,' and then people may get discouraged. As innovators, pharmacy informaticists, and people in healthcare technology we try to identify pain points and to see if we're able to try to resolve them by developing a solution or improving a process or augmenting an organizational structure. When you’re thinking and questioning all the time, it's crazy what kind of creativity comes from that. That mode of thinking would definitely go a long way in this type of field.
Matt: What are your thoughts on the future of the pharmacy profession?
David: Pharmacy is headed towards an area where technology will be a prominent player in healthcare in more ways than one—big data and analytics, artificial intelligence, natural language processing, block chain, and much more. The intersection between healthcare and technology is definitely where our profession is going. Using technology to save money and provide better and more efficient care is key to having less costly and better quality healthcare for our patients.