Meghann Chilcott Senior Vice President of OrderInsite, delivering executive leadership in innovative pharmacy technology solutions. Connect with me.
An increasing number of industries are turning to data aggregation and analysis to improve their operations. Data aggregation services are an investment that pay for themselves over time, with the increased efficiency and safety and improved customer service they bring.
The pharmacy industry is just one of many economic sectors that are discovering the power of analytics. Read on to learn some of the applications pharmacies and manufacturers are finding for data aggregation.
What Is Data Aggregation?
Pharmacies and manufacturers both handle massive amounts of data, including information about scripts, prescribers, insurance companies and patients. Navigating that data, and figuring out how to use it most efficiently, has been difficult.
Many pharmacies and manufacturers have been some of the earliest adopters of computerized systems. This allows more precise and accurate inventory, insurance and prescription management. However, these solutions usually focus on information that’s relevant to a particular transaction, such as information about refills, insurance and pickups. Data aggregation is the next logical step.
Many pharmacies have shied away from implementing a data aggregation solution on the grounds that it could violate patient privacy. While this is a serious concern, it’s not relevant to most data aggregation.
Data aggregation solutions for pharmacies and manufacturers gather broad demographic and behavioral information. They strip that identifying information of names, contact information, social security numbers or anything else that might be personally identifying.
That leaves the software with raw data about demographics, drugs, and medical conditions — the information that’s really valuable. With these data, accumulated from many patients over time, pharmacies, manufacturers, physicians and other stakeholders can draw a number of conclusions that can affect the way they do business.
Improving Outcomes: One Example
One of the most powerful ways data aggregation can transform the pharmaceutical industry is by collecting data specifically designed to improve patient outcomes.
Let’s say, for instance, that a patient is experiencing a side effect of their medication. They may report that information to their pharmacist, and ask if it’s a normal side-effect.
Of course, the pharmacist has information about side effects and medication interactions that showed up in clinical trials, as part of the drug’s data sheet, but some side effects only become apparent when the drug hits the market. Discovering these negative side effects would normally involve reviewing medical research, and that process can take years while studies clear peer review.
So the pharmacist may not have conclusive data the first time they speak to a patient who has this side-effect. While it may seem convincing, a few patients coming in with a side-effect is what researchers refer to, cheekily, as “anecdata” — anecdotes masquerading as data but nothing to draw conclusions from.
But with data on side-effects gathered and analyzed in real time, researchers and pharmacists can begin to see patterns that might otherwise be invisible. They can draw real conclusions about side-effects and med interactions that are backed up by solid evidence. Pharmacies and doctors can compare these data and respond to patient concerns as the story unfolds — improving medication safety and compliance and potentially even saving lives.
The above is just one example of what pharmaceutical data aggregation can do for pharmacies, manufacturers, doctors and other stakeholders on a very large scale. When pharmacy staff regularly enter data, these software solutions can make a dramatic change in how pharmacies do business in smaller ways too.
Data aggregation can have a marked effect on the pharmacy’s efficiency more generally. Let’s say the pharmacy is regularly experiencing hold-ups at a particular end of the refill process, such as when the office checks with the doctor. Normally this would be a problem noted in each individual refill’s file, rather than being correctly noted as a systemic issue. When considered as a systemic issue, the pharmacy can take decisive action to improve its processes and efficiency.
Speed And Efficiency
Most pharmacies are small-scale operations. They have a limited amount of staff time every day, and most of that goes into the everyday work of making sure the pharmacy stays operational.
Finding ways to maximize pharmacies’ limited time and other resources is key to good pharmacy management. Data aggregation solutions are excellent at using just a little information gathered from each situation and adding them up into a coherent whole that even a sophisticated data expert couldn’t necessarily come to on his or her own.
Keep in mind, too, that most small pharmacies don’t have the benefit of a full-time information technology staff and building new software tools is out of their reach. Not only are these data aggregation solutions ready to work out-of-the-box, but they take little setup and minimal training to use. These factors make gathering and analyzing data a far more attainable goal for even smaller pharmacies.
Some of the data aggregation services are well known to pharmacies, such as IQVIA, in which Doug Long provides the insights gained from their data at many pharmacy conferences. Another well-known data aggregator is Symphony Health, which has recently expanded its portfolio for improved visibility and insights. Claritas Rx is also tackling the specialty market to track patients across pharmacies and providers.
All sorts of industries are learning the importance of data. Pharmacies’ focus on data has traditionally involved capturing and using data relevant to specific transactions, but with data aggregation solutions, pharmacies can quickly, easily and safely gather data on issues as large as side effects across a population or as small as one doctor’s or insurance company’s practices. With that information, they can dramatically improve their service and patient outcomes.