PHARMACY

Study: Pharmaceutical companies prioritizing healthcare IT investments

BY Michael Johnsen

PARSIPPANY, N.J. — Three-in-four pharmaceutical companies are looking to derive greater value from the influx of healthcare information that includes anonymized electronic medical records and other real-world data, according to a report issued by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics on Wednesday. New investments in a range of commercial operations applications — such as customer relationship management, social media or integrated multi-channel marketing solutions — were cited by more than 70% of respondents as a priority.

“Realizing the full benefit from new technologies will be a high priority for all life sciences companies as commercialization approaches are revised amid changing customer demands and a growing need for efficiency,” stated Murray Aitken, executive director of the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics. “Applications that are healthcare-specific, cloud-based, integrated, secure and analytically powerful will yield tremendous advantage to these organizations, and ultimately to patients and the health system overall.”

The study — Riding the Information Technology Wave in Life Sciences: Priorities, Pitfalls and Promise — found that pharmaceutical companies are aggressively shifting their technology-based approaches to align cross-functional activities, optimize their organizations and improve the effectiveness and agility of commercial teams. In addition, new investment is being focused on enabling greater patient engagement.

The report cites findings from an IMS Institute survey of decision makers in IT, marketing, sales, operations and management from 70 organizations who were asked about their current and planned use of new IT solutions. Overall, respondents expect continued cost reductions across the industry, and 40% pointed to planned cuts of more than 10% in their organizations during the next three years.

Accordingly, the largest global pharmaceutical companies will need to reduce combined operating costs by $36 billion annually through 2017 to maintain their operating margins and current levels of R&D activities. Pressure on operating margins is expected to grow as companies face rising costs at the same time drug prices are being constrained or reduced. With an estimated R&D cost inflation rate of 5% annually, organizations will need to reduce other operating costs to maintain margins. While the source of cost cutting will vary by company, a primary focus likely will be on sales, marketing and administration costs, which amount to nearly 30% of net sales. Of those surveyed by the IMS Institute, 87% indicated that their commercial organizations are being optimized through a range of approaches, including selective insourcing and outsourcing, resource shifting and implementation of previously unavailable technology-based solutions.

Integrated systems, cited by 85% of survey respondents as a need for optimizing their commercial organizations, are increasingly viewed as a means to improve workflow speed, eliminate conflicting data interpretations across departments, and reduce the cost of vendor teams managing manual data handoffs.

Life sciences companies are shifting their primary data storage to the cloud, and investing in new sales and marketing-related applications. Due to the sensitive nature of healthcare data, the adoption of remote, cloud-based technologies by pharma companies has been slow compared to other industries. Organizations are embracing efforts by cloud providers to accelerate progress in establishing and maintaining secure and compliant environments for the collection and storage of health information. As many as 70% of participants expressed a need to utilize third-party, cloud-based applications.  

And new mobile applications for both patients and physicians are seen as increasingly important for strengthening healthcare engagement. Nearly 60% of survey respondents rated patient apps as extremely or very important to address commercial challenges, while 69% similarly rated investments in physician apps.

The full version of the report can be downloaded as an app via iTunes. The study was produced independently as a public service, without industry or government funding, IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics reported.

 

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Update: Bipartisan House bill seeks to designate pharmacists as healthcare providers in Medicare

BY Antoinette Alexander

ARLINGTON, Va. — Bipartisan legislation that would designate pharmacists as healthcare providers under the Medicare program was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday. The bill would amend The Social Security Act of 1935 to enable pharmacists to work to their full capability by providing underserved patients in the Medicare program with services not currently available to them.

The legislation has earned the support of several industry groups including the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the National Community Pharmacists Association and and the Patient Access to Pharmacists’ Care Coalition.
 
H.R. 4190, introduced by Reps. Brett Guthrie, R-Ky., G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., and Todd Young, R-Ind., would elevate pharmacists’ ability to help patients achieve success in their healthcare. Specifically, Medicare patients could have enhanced access to pharmacy services including immunizations, diabetes screenings and self-management education, cardiovascular screenings and behavioral therapy within the scope of state laws under this new bill.

“The provider status designation will amplify pharmacists’ ability to do what they do best – serve patients and help them on the road to better health,” stated NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson.

“We applaud the leadership of Reps. Guthrie, Butterfield and Young in introducing this bipartisan, commonsense legislation,” added Anderson.  “As one of the most trusted healthcare professionals, pharmacists are extremely valued by patients in the greatest of need. From helping patients take their medications effectively and safely, to providing preventive services, pharmacy services help keep people healthier and reduce costs.”

Responding to the news, NCPA CEO B. Douglas Hoey stated, “Independent community pharmacies often care for underserved patients in rural and urban areas alike. Most of these providers are located in smaller communities and approximately 1,800 independents are the only pharmacy option in their rural communities. In other areas, independent pharmacies cater to diverse populations for whom English may be a second language. In these scenarios and others, independent community pharmacists are ideally positioned to play a greater role in health care, so NCPA is proud to support this legislation.”

Also applauding the introduction of the legislation, Vince Ventimiglia, a principal with FaegreBD Consulting and advisor to the PAPCC, stated, "The PAPCC is encouraged by this significant step forward to increasing patient access to health care in a cost-effective manner by making pharmacists, as key members of the patient care team, eligible for payment under Medicare Part B, and we look forward to working with our champions and others in Congress to enact this common-sense legislation into law.”

The U.S. healthcare system is on a transformational path and, in recent years, pharmacists have played an increasingly important role in the delivery of healthcare services. Pharmacists now commonly provide immunizations and medication therapy management services. They are also developing new approaches through medication synchronization programs, identifying and treating medication adherence issues, and working to have the ability to provide simple medical testing services.

However, the lack of pharmacist recognition as a provider by third party payors — including Medicare and Medicaid — has limited the number and types of services pharmacists can provide, even though fully qualified to do so, NACDS stated.

“Retail pharmacies are oftentimes the most readily accessible healthcare provider. Research has shown that nearly all Americans (89%) live within five miles of a community retail pharmacy,” added Anderson. “Combined with their expertise and training, pharmacists as healthcare providers can serve their patients to their full capabilities.

“Expanding the role of pharmacists to meet the demands of more than 30 million newly uninsured patients can only help alleviate the increased need for healthcare services.  And we are hopeful that this legislation is the first step towards the ultimate goal of achieving success for patient health.”

 

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Winner of Pennsylvania Pharmacists Association competition named

BY Antoinette Alexander

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. — Wilkes University has announced that Colleen Herman, a student in Wilkes University’s Nesbitt College of Pharmacy, has won the “Know Pain Know Gain Pharmacy Patient Counseling Competition” administered by the Pennsylvania Pharmacists Association.

Caption: Finalists Colleen Herman of the Wilkes University Nesbitt College of Pharmacy, Benjamin Andrick of Duquesne University’s Mylan School of Pharmacy and Kyle McGrath of the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Pharmacy.

The student competition was conducted at the Association’s annual mid-year conference, held late January in Bedford, Pa. Sponsored by the National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations and Purdue Pharma, the competition consisted of a rapid fire question elimination round and a patient counseling round.

Herman, who is expected to graduate in May 2014 with a doctor of pharmacy degree, finished first out of 12 student competitors and received a $250 prize and a $50 donation in her name to the Pennsylvania Pharmacists Association Educational Foundation.

 

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