A large health system in the Northeast recently used the power of data analysis and an ability to work synergistically with other hospital departments to drive impressive results. It reduced drug costs by more than $2.8 million over two years across two of its member hospitals. Care quality measures improved, too, as the hospital pharmacy effectively shared its pharmaceutical and clinical knowledge with doctors and nurses in ways that shaped treatment decisions.
To enable real change, data analysis must be a continual process, not a one-time event. For utilization improvements to succeed, the results of the pharmacy’s data analysis and actions must be disseminated widely into the diverse hospital culture. Physicians believe data. Concrete evidence helps secure their engagement in making changes to improve patient care.
So what lessons learned can be shared? Consider these three steps to leverage the power of data to drive change in your organization:
Culture can be the engine that drives change. The health system highlighted here has an integrated physician practice with a comprehensive practice model that supports a culture open to change. In their model, pharmacy input in clinical decision-making isn’t a surprise. Indeed, pharmacists are expected to proactively collaborate with physicians, nurses, and other healthcare providers to monitor medication selection and drug use patterns. It is a healthy way for a hospital culture to work.
In this collaborative environment, presenting data to all levels within the system, from bedside to hospital leadership, is the fuel that turbo-charges results. The pharmacy clinicians continually drive cutting-edge, cost-effective medication utilization by preparing recommendations that combine clinical data, system and national benchmark comparisons, and data analytics. This data-driven approach highlights pharmacy as a strategic asset in the ever-changing healthcare environment.
At one point, it was estimated that Intravenous Acetaminophen alone would become a $1.8 million line item on the system drug budget. This spike in cost was due to a large increase in acquisition cost, and increasing utilization compared to baseline and national benchmark data. Utilization data was analyzed at the DRG level for patients receiving IV acetaminophen compared to those who did not, and included length of stay, use of other pain medications, and total medication cost per DRG. This analysis was combined with published clinical data and presented to the Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee along with results-based recommendations for proper utilization of IV acetaminophen. Upon implementation of these recommendations, the health system avoided $850,000 in spend in just one year.
Pharmacy data analysis is a powerful medical and business tool that’s still largely untapped in our industry. Many hospitals don’t fully realize the size and scope of savings that can be achieved via a well-executed pharmacy data analysis and well-designed dashboard. To hospital pharmacists, we say: Give your clinical colleagues data—data that is easy to review and meaningful to make change happen. This particular health system’s experience shows that data analysis—proactive, predictive, actionable—can make the pharmacy (and its leadership) a strategic asset in a hospital system.