Future of PharmD: Critical Thinking & Problem Solving

Maybe it was just serendipity but last night I had dinner with an oncologist and hospital administrator; this morning the headline Seattle Times story was about the challenges of administering chemo drugs safely, and then I addressed the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy—the folks worried about how to train pharmacists for a challenging environment.
Therapies are getting more complicated, cost pressures more intense, delivery more varied, policy more dynamic, and PharmD students more demanding about the education they expect.   Obamacare includes (mostly) welcome provisions that encourage a shift from pills to patients and volume to value-add under the heading of Medication Therapy Management.  Pharmacy educators are thinking hard about how to prepare their students for an expanded role in primary care.
The new demands are increasing the focus on critical thinking and problem solving—applied knowledge under dynamic circumstances.  Computer simulations are playing a larger role in pharmacy education and experiential learning now makes up about a third of the training.  I talked about the blended world of learning to come; turns out that many of these folks are leading the way.
It was an interesting deep dive into a subsector of education that was pretty stable for 100 years but needs to adapt quickly.  Professional schools are a bit more protected from cost pressures and competitors and than undergrad programs.  But it’s clear that the “21st century skills” conversation is alive and well at AACP.  They are thinking hard about how to prepare health care professionals to work on teams, to communicate effectively, and solve problems for patients.
[These PharmDs don’t tweet like ISTE attendees, but see #AACPAM10 for more]

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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1 Comment


In the hospital pharmacies, I'm witnessing new technologies being implemented each year to streamline many processes of medication distribution. Although as stated in your article there are new challenges for clinical pharmacists due to complex treatments, the operations component of actually running the pharmacy is seeing dramatic changes that clinical pharmacists are not too familiar with. Clinical pharmacists are usually more patient focused and are situated in satellite areas near patient care units while working with other health care providers. Staff pharmacists are on the front lines of pharmacy distribution and reviewing/verifying orders using pharmacy information systems with built in decision support systems. Numerous backend safety checks with therapeutic/generic duplication warning alerts, drug-drug interactions, tall-man lettering settings of labels and automatic dispensing cabinet systems, barcode administration technology, and override settings which are all managed and configured by pharmacy analysts or systems administrators are assisting the pharmacists carefully review a patient's orders more appropriately. New CPOE systems allow staff pharmacists to review pertinent clinical data such as labs, medication history, allergies, etc rather than spend a majority of the time with the entry of an order.
I think we'll see more and more implementation of technology within hospitals across the country. New meaningful use dollars are being reaped by hospitals under Obama's plan to reimburse those who implement EMR systems accurately to provide more efficient healthcare. I believe technology will have a major impact for PharmDs in the future.

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