RXPERT, a prototype, computer-based, expert system that models the decision-making processes for an ambulatory (non-hospital) formulary, is described as an example of how expert systems may be used to support pharmacy decision making. Basic information about expert-system technology is provided through this example.
Computer-assisted decision making is becoming an important and accepted aspect of complex, health-related decisions. Because expert-system support may become an integral component of future, complex, pharmacy decision making, it is important for pharmacists to become familiar with this technology and its possibilities for supporting pharmacy decisions.
Expert systems offer the potential advantages of making the human decision-making process explicit, more consistent, easily duplicated in many locations simultaneously, and easy to update and document. Although an expert system is seldom intended to replace human decision makers, it can provide valuable support for complex, multivariable decisions. Typical knowledge-acquisition and knowledge-engineering techniques, as well as the characteristics and structure of expert systems, are described, relative to the development of the RXPERT prototype.
Although RXPERT is not yet in use, the process for using an expert system to support an individual committee member's personal assessment of a drug product is described. Decision-support expert systems are potentially useful to pharmacists in complex decision-making tasks.