Pharmacies harness big data to track, boost patient outcomes
Predicting the future of any industry or profession is always a tricky business, since no crystal ball can account for unexpected breakthroughs in research and development, detours on the road to progress or shifts in population movement or consumer demand. But for the healthcare industry in general and retail pharmacy in particular, at least one prediction is near certain: Information technology will play an increasingly critical role in how all health providers administer care, collaborate with one another in a team-based approach to care, and engage with patients themselves.
It’s big data in action. Spurred by urgent cost-saving mandates and the revolution in evidence-based medicine and patient empowerment, information technology has become the lynchpin of health reform.
The generation, sharing and management of ever-more-specific patient data have emerged as central concerns for the entire spectrum of healthcare providers and payers. And community pharmacy, an early adopter of automation with a long history already in the capture and use of information technology, finds itself at the hub of the data management quest.
That capability gives pharmacy a seat at the table among the stakeholders that will determine healthcare’s future.
“The combination of patient accessibility, big data and predictive analytics uniquely positions community pharmacies and their pharmacists to be key players for providing affordable, effective health care to patients,” noted Frank Sheppard, president and CEO of healthcare technology company Ateb. “Ateb’s work with our partner pharmacies to implement automated appointment-based model solutions have demonstrated remarkable and measured improvements in Medicare star measures, transitional care readmissions, immunization rates … and a host of [Health Effectiveness Data and Information Set] scores.”
“By using the sources of data available, pharmacies can take action to drive healthier outcomes in a very affordable manner,” Sheppard added.
The data generated by pharmacy dispensing and information software is a powerful tool when used in collaboration with an integrated and patient-focused system of care, added Mike Coughlin, president, CEO and CFO of pharmacy automation provider ScriptPro.
“Patient health outcomes and treatment costs depend heavily on access to needed medications and proper medication use,” Coughlin told DSN. However, he said, “Outcomes also depend on making sure all relevant healthcare providers know what the medication use history is for a patient.
“Information technologies are at the heart of these functions,” Coughlin said. “And coordination of information flows — across the spectrum of settings where there is provider/patient/ medication interaction — should be an objective of technology providers working in this space.”
Technology’s role in quest for provider status
What’s more, the leveraging and integration of patient data and prescription records to create a fully realized, team-based care and disease-prevention plan for patients goes to the heart of the pharmacy profession’s long battle to achieve full-provider status. “Pharmacy automation, both centralized and retail based, will be the empowerment tool to redeploy the pharmacist to patient-facing activities,” asserted Dr. Phil Samples, VP government and professional services for Innovation.
“The question that pharmacies need to ask is, how are they going to accomplish this?” Samples added. “Without this critical resource, pharmacies will either have to add labor or simply not have an impact on the new emerging roles that the healthcare system has planned for pharmacists.”
For pharmacists to perform those “patient-facing” clinical and preventive-health roles, they’ll also rely heavily on pharmacy automation to assume a larger share of the traditional dispensing duties that have kept them from engaging more often with patients and practicing “at the top of their license.”
For their part, health plans and insurers also are fully engaged in the quest to make full use of the data generated by every encounter between patients and their doctors and pharmacists. The goal: improving patient outcomes and, more essentially, preventing or delaying the onset of disease in the first place. “We’ve put a lot of resources into prevention and early detection and ongoing maintenance,” said Bernard Tyson, chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente. “We have invested billions in technology.”
“Does the electronic medical record really make a difference? Absolutely it does, if done correctly and managed correctly,” Tyson said. “We have almost 10 million people on the electronic medical record. And what we’ve done with the quality of care that’s based on the evidence of the outcomes of one treatment vs. another … shows quality going up … and variations in treatment modalities going down.”
Whatever uses any retailer makes of the flood of information generated by their pharmacy software, “organizations will need to ingest huge amounts of data quickly, reason over it and act on it in real time,” observed Joe Tucci, chairman and CEO of IT solutions provider EMC, at a gathering of information technology executives last year.
Allergy brand promotion high in pollen season
In the past 12 months ended April 19, Zyrtec (McNeil Consumer Healthcare) continues to dominate the allergy category with total retail sales of $332 million. During the same time, Claritin, Allegra and Nasacort also displayed high retail sales (see Figure 1). Among the five top brands, the average list and retail price is $13.40 and $18.45, respectively. Zyrtec has the highest average retail price of $20.03, while Claritin has the lowest average retail price of $16.79 among the five brands evaluated.
(To view the full Promo Watch report, click here.)
Nasacort has aggressively promoted since its introduction in February 2014. The average percent of units sold on promotion for Nasacort was 44% for the year, but did reach as high as 68% in April 2015. In comparison, Claritin only sold 31% on promotion during the past 12 months.
Last year, the allergy category saw an average margin increase of 4 percentage points above YAG, now at 28%. The top five brands with the highest average margin percentage were Allegra D (38%), Claritin D (35%), Zyrtec D (32%) and Zyrtec (30%) (see Figure 2).
Allergy brand sales are highly affected by spring season pollen with increased sales and promotions during the months of March and April. CPR data reveals that Chattem’s Nasacort had the highest trade spending (18%) in terms of average off-invoice and bill back allowances, while other brands were lower — Allegra (13%), Flonase (10%), Zyrtec (5%) and private label (10%).
In terms of featured activity for the allergy category, ECRM’s ad count data indicates that private label far surpassed any national brand in terms of the number of featured ads. In the last three months, private label had more than 727 circular ads while Claritin had 464, Allegra 345 and Benadryl 324 (see Figure 3).
Lastly, ECRM data indicated that price reductions are the most common type of promotion among top allergy brands. Percent of price-only promotions were:
- Nasacort: 87%;
- Flonase : 81%;
- Allegra: 83%; and
- Zyrtec: 76%.
On the other hand, Claritin had just 75% in price-only promotions.
This analysis was gathered using CPR and IRI data in terms of growth in retail sales, year-over-year margin growth and promotional spending.
CPR is a leading provider of competitive market intelligence and insights in the health, beauty and wellness industry. Learn more by visiting competitivepromotion.com.
No comments found
Looking forward: Q&A with Bob Mauch of AmerisourceBergen
Bob Mauch, EVP and president of AmerisourceBergen Drug
Earlier this year AmerisourceBergen named Bob Mauch EVP and president of AmerisourceBergen Drug, tapping an executive who has been in the pharmacy business his whole life. He’s passionate about what he does, and he sees significant opportunity on the horizon for both ABC and its partners. Drug Store News sat down with Mauch to discuss how ABC and its partners will realize that promising future.
Drug Store News: Bob, let’s start off talking a little bit about your background.
Bob Mauch: I’ve grown up in pharmacy my entire life. My family was in the pharmacy business — my dad owned both independent community and long-term care pharmacies. So I grew up in that business, anywhere from working as a technician to a delivery driver to a pharmacist. Our customer’s perspective is part of who I am. I really think about [opportunities] from a pharmacist perspective, and most importantly, I think [about] how do we make sure we improve patient care. Based on that, when I finished pharmacy school, I went to graduate school and got a PhD in pharmacy administration, which focused on outcomes research and health economics. My interest there was really in how we are going to be able to understand the value of pharmaceuticals when they become very expensive, very specialized. That was in 1994. We were just starting to have a lot of discussions about pharmaceutical care and outcomes. When I got out of grad school, I started a company called Xcenda, an outcomes research and consulting firm primarily focused on helping pharmaceutical companies understand and communicate the value or the cost-effectiveness of their medication, and then also how patients and physicians will be reimbursed for those medications. I did that for nearly 20 years and then had the opportunity to be acquired by AmerisourceBergen in 2007. Then I moved from the consulting organization within ABC to the full-line distribution business in 2010. I’ve been trying to apply all of that history, all of that knowledge — a passion for efficiency, a passion for pharmaceutical care and a passion for improving patient outcomes — into the distribution business. I try to focus on that every single day.
DSN: Can you talk about what your role at ABC is today and how you think your background informs that role?
Mauch: What an exciting time it is at AmerisourceBergen. My current role is the president of AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation, which is our full-line distribution business. We are the part of [the] company that delivers to nearly 30,000 pharmaceutical locations every single day versus our specialty group, which is more physician-office focused. The exciting part for AmerisourceBergen is that while I have been going through my career with a focus on reimbursement, outcomes and specialty, so has AmerisourceBergen. It’s not a coincidence that they acquired my company when they did. When you think about our history over the years and the growth that we’ve had in purchasing the Lash Group, which is focused on patient reimbursement, and we already talked about Xcenda, which is focused on outcomes and pharmacoeconomics, Besse [Medical] and Oncology Supply, which are focused really on the specialty growth market, and US Bioservices, which is specialty pharmacy focused, what that leads us to is … an infrastructure that is ready to help our customers succeed in today’s environment and going forward.
We’re not so much trying to retool ourselves for the future. This actually is our time. … We believe that, as you know, we win as our customers grow. As our customers succeed, they can care for more patients [and] they will have access to more products [and services]. They’ll grow and we’ll benefit them. We are aligning our strategy to help our customers win in the marketplace. Rather than sitting in a corporate office and deciding what the AmerisourceBergen strategy should be necessarily, we’re focused on how we’re going to align our resources to help our customers win. It’s exciting, because when you think about how our capabilities line up with our customer’s needs— and particularly community pharmacy customer’s needs— when you think about the things they’re faced with today in terms of reimbursement pressure, narrow networks, access to specialty products, and outcomes-based reimbursement or outcomes-based care, those are the things that we do. That’s the expertise that we have. It’s in our DNA, frankly. We believe we are uniquely positioned to help our customers win. So the strategy, the strategy at ABCD and ABC broadly is to align around that. … We’re spending a lot of time understanding [our customer’s] needs. We’re also matching that with market expertise and insights.
DSN: What do you see as some of ABC’s greatest strengths, opportunities and challenges?
Mauch: Our strengths are really in best-in-class distribution capabilities, and from that providing a customer experience that really impacts our customer’s business. They don’t have to worry about the products being there, they just have to worry about caring for their patient. We talked about the specialty expertise that we have, and that’s both distribution and sourcing. Probably the third big bucket there really is the reimbursement and outcomes expertise that we have within AmerisourceBergen. Those are our core strengths and they match up very well with the marketplace. The challenges for AmerisourceBergen are the same challenges that are industry wide. We’re seeing our customers navigating a very challenging healthcare environment. We are going through a period of time from a healthcare and from a health policy standpoint that is probably unprecedented in terms of care models changing and being tested with a lot of cost control and cost pressure in the system. From that, we’re seeing our customers in search of new ways to be relevant, new ways to care for their patients. … The market dynamics are significant right now. … If you take our strengths and the challenges that are in the marketplace, [that] turns right into our opportunity — we can be an excellent strategic partner for independent community pharmacy, regional chains and others. We have the expertise, we have the knowledge and we have the desire to work with them and help them grow their business.
DSN: How would you define your vision for how AmerisourceBergen will grow and evolve its business looking forward?
Mauch: It’s all about the customer. Our vision for how we will grow is aligning the vast expertise resources that we have within AmerisourceBergen, aligning those with the customer’s needs, and helping them grow so that we grow. It’s a bit simple, but we think it’s very powerful because we have what they need. It’s not just the medication. We’re going to be investing. We’re going to be innovative. We’re going to be, frankly, best-in-class in making sure that we have that product in the right place at the right time. And we’re also going to have these other opportunities for them to work with us so they can grow their businesses better, faster. And when they win, we win.
DSN: You talked about reimbursement strategies; you talked about the specialty business; you talked about outcomes-based medicine. What message do you have for the independent operator looking at the healthcare landscape in trying to determine not only how to survive but how to succeed?
Mauch: I grew up in pharmacy. I’ve been in on a lot of conversations within a pharmacy thinking about how to grow and how to survive and thrive and, most importantly, how to care for patients. That’s a different conversation in 2015 than it was 10 years ago. So my advice to independent pharmacy operators in particular is to make sure that they’re not reaching backward for solutions, but that they’re reaching forward. They’re really understanding what will drive growth in the market, … what the real opportunities and challenges [are] that they have, and then have the right investments and the right partners to win. The most proactive community pharmacists will be the ones who win, and those that are hoping for something good to happen I feel are at a bit more [at] risk. So my advice is to be proactive, be innovative, grasp the future, make the right investment, and partner with the right pharmaceutical company to get there.
No comments found