Having worked as a pharmacist, manager and locum in community pharmacies for around 14 years, Nicola Clargo says she had never considered a career in medical informatics. A chance conversation with a colleague led her to an opportunity to work for First Databank in Exeter, UK, in April 2000.
“First Databank produces a drug knowledge base, which is embedded in computer systems used in both community pharmacy and in GP, out of hours and hospital prescribing,” Clargo explains.
At first, she was responsible for the review and quality control of clinical information, such as contraindications and warnings in specific therapeutic areas. “I drew on my experience of having worked in community pharmacy, which proved invaluable when I was involved in a project to develop an endorsing and reimbursement toolkit,” she says. The product enabled pharmacy computer systems to process electronic prescription claims, freeing pharmacists from manual endorsements.
In 2010, Clargo worked with the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in a pilot project to accredit processes for creating the information held within clinical decision support systems. “I worked within a core team applying NICE’s existing accreditation process to assess the development of our content,” she explains.
As part of her current role, Clargo reviews drug information from clinical researchers and publishes details of medicines to the database. These include drugs newly available in the UK and unlicensed products included at the request of customers. She also helps to refine the company’s editorial policy. For example, discussing how best to deliver safety messages for high-strength insulin and other high-risk products. Other responsibilities include highlighting and resolving any inconsistencies within information on the database, and ensuring those types of data are handled consistently.
It was a surreal yet exciting experience to be driving through the Omani desert in a business suit with the temperature gauge reading 43 degrees outside.
Currently, she is working with the product safety pharmacist, whose role it is to check the data from a safety perspective, to review the content of label warnings for dispensed medicines. “The thing I like most about this job is the variety and, although I have worked here for 14 years, no two days have been the same,” Clargo says.
“Over the past 14 years I have had many opportunities to broaden my experience and take on new challenges,” Clargo says. This included a visit to Oman when the company expanded across the Middle East.
Clargo delivered a series of presentations at a number of hospitals to train clinicians on the use of prescribing alerts and explain the editorial processes which underpin the information displayed in their prescribing systems.
“It was a surreal yet exciting experience to be driving through the Omani desert in a business suit with the temperature gauge reading 43 degrees outside,” she says.
Making a difference
As the functionality of prescribing and dispensing systems being used both in primary and secondary care becomes more sophisticated — and medicines optimisation solutions become more widely adopted — increasing numbers of pharmacists are finding careers in medical informatics, says Clargo.
Clargo encourages other pharmacists to consider a career in medical informatics. “It provides a real opportunity to make a difference, to increase patient safety and influence outcomes,” she says. “I hope this area of expertise will be recognised and welcomed into the fold of more traditional community and secondary care roles, and one day my colleagues and I won’t need to tick ‘other’ when trying to find the correct check box to describe ourselves.”
Nicola Clargo, MRPharmS
1986–1987: Pharmacist, Boots, Chorlton, Manchester
1987–1988: Pharmacist manager, National Co-operative Chemists, Oldham 1989–1990 — Pharmacist manager, National Co-operative Chemist, Leigh
1990–2000: Locum pharmacist
2000 to present: Clinical pharmacist, First Databank
BSc (Pharm) Manchester (1984)
Certificate in Internal Quality System Auditing (2008)