Ontology-Based Competence Management in Pharmacy

Ontology-Based Competence Management in Pharmacy

J. Puustjärvi (Department of Computer Science, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland) and L. Puustjärvi (The Pharmacy of Kaivopuisto, Neitsytpolku, Finland)
DOI: 10.4018/jaras.2013040105


The role of competence management in pharmacy is increasing as healthcare is a field where the fast development of drug treatment and the introduction of new drugs require specialized skills and knowledge that must be renewed frequently. However, two obstacles for the widespread adoption of computer aided competence management in pharmacies exist. First, pharmacies do not have enough resources for maintaining competence management systems. Second, in pharmacies well-functioning competence management requires co-operation with other organizations, such as healthcare authorities and educational institutions, but competence management systems do not support such co-operation. To solve the resource problem, the authors have exploited a community cloud, which enables resource sharing among pharmacies and thus reduces pharmacies’ costs in competence management. To carry out co-operation with other organizations, they have developed a competence ontology which not only specify a shared terminology but also makes up a shared data store for the co-operating organizations. The competence ontology is specified in OWL. Further, to achieve efficiency in implementing the ontology the authors have transformed it into relational model. By means of relational database systems the authors have also achieved additional functionality, such as triggering, in competence management.
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Competencies as abstractions of human’s behavior in work have proven to be useful concept in making human skills, knowledge and abilities manageable. Through these abstractions organizations aim to achieve the ability to respond to the dynamic nature of their external environment. In addition, competence oriented activities are proven to be useful in designing the participants for projects as well as in recruiting employees.

Often competence oriented activities are observed from two perspectives (Schmidt & Kunzmann, 2011): Organizational perspective refers to the ability to sustain the coordinated deployment of resources in ways that help an organization to achieve its goals. Individual perspective focuses on specifying learning paths (i.e., sequences of learning activities) that lead to certain learning outcomes and individual’s competence.

In ICT (Information and Communication Technology) these two perspectives of competence are traditionally treated by separate systems: competence management systems are focused competence management issues while learning management systems are focused on managing learning activities. In recent research the importance of the integration of these two kinds of systems are recognized (Draganidis et al., 2011; Schmidt & Kunzmann, 2006) and, new integrated systems are introduced (Fraganidis & Mentzas, 2007). Through such advanced systems organizations can achieve synergy, e.g., the results of organizations skill gap analysis can be directly mapped to appropriate learning activities, and further to appropriate learning paths and learning outcomes for missing competences.

Yet a problem is that advanced competence management systems are overly complex and difficult to maintain for most SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) as their ICT resource are quite small-scale. However, in many knowledge-intensive SMEs the exploitation of competence management systems would be of high importance. For example, in pharmacies the role of competence management and lifelong learning is increasing all the time as they are moving away from their original role on drug supply towards a more inclusive focus on pharmaceutical care (Wiedenmayer et al., 2006; Mil et al., 2004; Hepler & Strand, 1990), which sets significant challenges on pharmacists’ skills and competences. At the same time the fast development of drug treatment and the introduction of new drugs still increase the requirements on specialized skills and knowledge that need to be renewed frequently (Puustjärvi & Puustjärvi, 2010; Puustjaävi & Puustjärvi 2011).

On the other hand, not even the most advanced competence management systems provide enough functionality for competence management in pharmacies. The main reason is that well-functioning competence management requires co-operation between relevant parties including pharmaceutical staff, healthcare authorities and educational institutions. The key point in such co-operation is information sharing among organizations, which is a feature that is not supported in competence management systems.

It is well known that information sharing among users is a feature that can be achieved by cloud computing. As a result, we have also exploited cloud computing in developing a competence management system for pharmacies. In addition, cloud computing is an interesting choice as it allows consumers and businesses to use applications without installation. Thereby cloud computing reduces the cost of acquiring, delivering, and maintaining computing power (Khajeh-Hosseini et al., 2011). In particular, community cloud has proven to be the most appropriate cloud deployment model as its infrastructure can be shared by several pharmacies. It enables pharmacies to purchase only the computing services they need, instead of investing in complex competence management systems. Further, as pharmacies have shared concerns with drug and educational information they can share most their used data, and thereby reduce their cost in maintaining pharmacy specific data.

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