Improving Patient Outcomes through Pharmacy Informatics

To celebrate American Pharmacists Month (October) and the role of the pharmacy informaticst, I interviewed HIMSS member, Ashley Mains Espinosa, PharmD, MS, CPHIMS, to learn about her career in pharmacy informatics. American Pharmacists Month takes place every October to recognize the work of pharmacists across the nation. The American Pharmacists Association (APhA) launched this celebratory month in 2004 with the goal of promoting the profession of pharmacy and highlighting the role of the pharmacist in delivering patient care.


How did you get started in pharmacy informatics?

My current career position is a product of opportunity, community, and legacy. Informal studies have shown that most pharmacists working in Informatics received their training “on the job,” and I am no different.


I was in a fortunate position of opportunity for a five-year period to participate or lead testing and go-live projects with three different pharmacy information systems and computerized prescriber order entry (CPOE) systems. These systems primarily taught me patterns of success with product launches and end-user engagement and the right vocabulary to engage with other health IT professionals to take anything to the next level. It opened doors to challenging new projects and expand my repertoire.


Relationship building is paramount for all professionals. I’ve regularly engaged with the health professionals at my organization and around the nation through involvement and volunteering in professional organizations. Some of my dearest friends started as new members of my professional community with whom I purposefully surrounded myself.


Lastly, I complemented and grounded my informatics involvement through the robust experience I gained in the Health System Pharmacy Administration Residency and Master’s program at the University of Kansas Health System. The program has a legacy of developing healthcare leaders, and my success reflects the solid foundation and education imparted by their team.

Pharmacy informatics is the scientific field that focuses on medication-related data and knowledge within the continuum of healthcare systems - including its acquisition, storage, analysis, use and dissemination - in the delivery of optimal medication-related patient care and health outcomes. The pharmacy informaticist focuses on application of technology for pharmacists in supporting, streamlining, improving workflow and increasing patient safety with best practices and reliable systems.

What motivated you to venture into informatics? What motivates you to stay?

Recognizing the value that computers brought to healthcare motivated me to enter the realm of informatics. It is exciting, as a pharmacist, to participate in changing the method by which care is delivered to improve outcomes instead of adjusting mediations or doses. The ability to see progress in our endeavors to improve health in our communities while working in a venue where I may continually learn and reinvent myself motivates me to stay.

Did you gain any valuable lessons learned along the way?

1. Building relationships and trust is important from the day you walk in the door until your retirement.

2. Contributing to the development of others often results in development of yourself.

3. Relying on food as the natural elixir to improve most situations with groups of people.


Ashley Mains Espinosa, PharmD, MS, CPHIMS, is system pharmacy manager at SCL Health in Denver, Colo.