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THE IMPACT OF THE ELECTRONIC HEALTH RECORD

October 31, 2014

There are many forces bearing down on the nation’s health care system ranging from the imperative for broader access to the changing roles of providers. But without question, one of the most relentless change agents is science and technology.

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The Electronic Health Record of the future will essentially be the complete history of your body.

There is perhaps no better illustration of the impact of science and technology in health care than the Electronic Health Record (EHR). As an enhanced, digital version of the papers and folders which, until a short time ago, once stored all of a patient’s information, the EHR is transforming the practice of health care.

Yet despite the inroads already made by the EHR, we are just scratching the surface of its eventual impact. In the not too distant future – say, the next 15 years or so – experts predict the EHR will include information such as:

  • Your entire genome sequence annotated with your propensities for different disease states and for the effectiveness of different medications
  • Results of every medical test or diagnostic that you have ever taken
  • A record of every drug you have ever taken and your response to each medication
  • Results of CAT scans, MRIs, and other ultrasonic images

Before long, you’ll be able to attach physiological monitors to your cell phone and collect real time blood pressure, heart rates, and other diagnostic data that will automatically be sent to your health care providers and added to your record.

The Electronic Health Record will essentially be the complete history of your body.

If you think about this health record of the future, it begs certain questions. Who is going to analyze all of this data? Who is going to manage it? Who is going to evaluate it and come up with a therapy management strategy to meet your personalized needs?

What will be needed in the future is a person who can manage both information and expertise. This “knowledge manager” will be able to review an individual’s Electronic Health Record and work with interprofessional teams to inform possible therapies. I believe the pharmacist is ideally positioned to fill this role.

I would argue that pharmacists have long been, and still are, knowledge managers. So in a sense, that has not changed. What has changed, however, is the scientific sophistication, the technology, and the wealth of available data on human biology.

We as pharmacy educators must seize on the opportunity presented by EHR’s and provide students with the ability to manage this avalanche of information. At the same time, we cannot lose sight of the human aspect of health care and the importance of caring for patients in an empathetic manner.

In parallel with this effort is the need to educate the next generation of heath scientists. These are the individuals who will be creating the content of the future health record. Drugs, diagnostics, monitors, and therapy management strategies are the domain of health science education.

Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences can meet these health science needs by expanding from our core competencies. I firmly believe that for us to be at the leading edge of health science, we need to be at the leading edge of pharmacy.

We can accomplish these twin objectives by anticipating future changes in health care and aligning our academic programs with the corresponding needs. In doing so, we will ensure our students have the knowledge, skills, and compassion to operate in an increasingly complex world.

This blog post was excerpted from President Greg Dewey, Ph.D's inauguration speech on October 15, 2014. Click here to read the full transcript of his remarks.

Greg Dewey, Ph.D., is President of Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.

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