Keeping the Patient First – How Technology Supports a Patient Focus

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I’ve been in the technology consulting business for a long time. When I first started at Oracle twenty years ago, long before automation had taken hold, client/server architecture was the big thing. Back then, we could have never imagined the technology capabilities of today – for example, automating the process of ensuring that a production release doesn’t impact critical business functions.

For the past fifteen years, I’ve worked in the specialty pharmacy industry. In that time, I have learned a tremendous amount about specialty pharmacy business and operations.

One theme that consistently stands out is patient care. The common challenge: How do you meet all the demands of running your business and service your patients? The answer often involves implementing technology initiatives that improve many of the back-end processes that ultimately impact a patient.

Here are three factors that, when considered during a technology initiative, will ensure the patient journey is uninterrupted. Let’s dive in:

1. Consider the change that you’re making – and its potential to impact patients.

What type of technology change are you introducing? How ‘patient-facing’ or ‘patient-impacting’ is that change?

A wholesale change – such as migrating data from one application to another – has the potential to be very impactful to the patient. If a patient’s prescription is not migrated correctly, they may miss a shipment or get the wrong items in their order. And because the impact of such an error would be felt far beyond the patient, in any project involving patient data, many safeguards are put into place to avoid such a scenario.

In contrast, a smaller change- such as operational dashboards – has far less potential to impact the patient. If a dashboard is wrong, there’s typically no impact on a patient’s shipments. (However, if incorrect dashboards were used to determine resource levels, there may be some service-level issues).

2. Create safeguards to avoid impacting your patient population while implementing your project.

Now that you’ve assessed the potential impact of your change, it’s time to evaluate the project from a holistic perspective. The key here is understanding the impact of your change beyond the change itself. In my experience, this is a two-step process:

  1. Knowing that patient-dependent processes are executing as expected
  2. Having visibility into how processes and systems are performing overall

Here’s an example that illustrates the process: let’s say you are implementing a new system for referral receipt. This project includes receiving new electronic referrals and creating the appropriate data for that referral, including patient demographics as well as prescription data. Technology teams sometimes want to focus only on the specifics of the project and typically understand and implement monitoring for this aspect well. So, from a monitoring perspective, the tech team will naturally monitor for the creation of patient and prescription data – this allows them to know that the specific project is working as expected. That’s step one. But is that enough? It’s possible, but you can’t be sure until you’ve taken a closer look and understand all upstream and downstream impacts. That’s step two.

In this case, project-level monitoring is not enough – many dependent project processes use the same data to complete the business cycle. Once you know that patients and prescriptions are getting created, it’s time to dig deeper to confirm that same data can be safely used to submit a claim, fulfill the prescription, collect payment for it, and more.

And because this project also has a high patient impact potential, monitoring activity should be a priority for the technology team as well as their business partners.

3. Understand the business you are supporting.

A key element when assessing technology impact is understanding the overall business. I’ve seen the different approaches people take to supporting customers. My approach, and what I have always taught my team, is to understand the customer’s business and operations as much as possible.

If you only understand that project, you may miss something critical in terms of dependent processes. Understanding the overall business processes and your customer’s objectives will put you in a position to deliver a stronger project from a technology as well as a business perspective.

Not only does this approach support a patients-first perspective, it has also saved our specialty pharmacy customers millions of dollars in project benefits. It is one of the reasons we stay with an account for many years as their vendor of choice.

Note that patient-specific projects, such as education and hub support, are just as important. A recent study cited on discovered that only 1 in 5 patients are even aware of support services. A similar study of 6,000 patients utilizing some form of specialty treatment found that, “when complex medications were accompanied with support services, the odds of patients remaining adherent were on average 23% higher (and in some cases 39% higher) than without such support.”

The patient is always at the forefront of the conversation in healthcare. As we do more to keep them top of mind, we elevate their experiences, outcomes, and the business as a whole.

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