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It has been said the three most important criteria for a successful restaurant or shop are location, location, location. A similar mantra for success for the hospital pharmacist is information, information, information.
First, we need information on the patient. We need to know their age and weight so that we can check whether the dose is right. We need to know their clinical condition to judge whether the medicine is appropriate for their disease, and is not going to cause problems because of liver, kidney or other dysfunction. Last but not least, we need to know what other drugs they are on to avoid the risks associated with drug interactions.
Second, we need the information on the prescription. What did the doctor (or other prescriber) order? Is it clear, unambiguous, safe? Is it coming to us as a conventional, written, patient-carried paper prescription, or is it an electronic order?
Finally, we need information on the drug so we, as individual pharmacists, are competent to do our job and support doctors and nurses in theirs. Importantly, we also need this information so that we can advise patients appropriately.
The advent of the electronic age gives us the means to handle, store and retrieve information efficiently. Conversely it also means a massive increase in the amount of information available to us and in the amount of information we receive. We then have to sift through that information to ensure that we pull out what is relevant to us, before we assimilate and/or use that information. All of this takes time, which is at a premium for many of us. Dealing with this quantity issue can overwhelm us even before we start to deal with information quality issues.
In this issue we have a number of articles looking at information, handling it and dealing with it. The vastness of the information issue means that this only scratches the surface, but we hope it will help pharmacists to get to grips with this new phenomenon of information overload.
Chris Cairns, Consultant Editor