We are living in the age of Big Data. Yes, capital letters. The term began slowly seeping into the business world at the turn of the 21st century. Now, it’s everywhere. But Big Data is more than just an industry buzzword. (Can a buzzword be two words?) No, Big Data is the future of business — and pharmacies are no exception.
How Today’s Pharmacies Can Use Big Data Insights to Improve Patient Care & Profitability
“If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it.” Noted 19th century scientist and mathematician Lord Kelvin may not have known he was laying out the perfect case for business analytics at the time, but that’s exactly what he did. As a business, regardless of industry, if you don’t know what you’re doing and how well you’re doing it, you can’t make an actionable plan to do it better.
But before we dive into how Big Data can help pharmacies, let’s figure out what it even is.
Defining Big Data
So what does Big Data mean? It turns out, there’s some discrepancy there. Different resources define it in different ways. NASA was the first to use the term back in 1997 when they used it in a paper to describe datasets so large they wouldn’t fit in available memory. In 2011, the McKinsey Global Institute issued a report that defined Big Data as “datasets whose size is beyond the ability of typical database software tools to capture, store, manage, and analyze.” Wikipedia also has a different definition, as do a dozen other sources.
As far as our definition of Big Data, let’s keep things simple:
Big Data can be defined as large amounts of information that can be analyzed to reveal patterns, trends, and associations. This data is high in either volume, velocity, or variety.
Let’s break those three variables down.
Volume refers to the amount of information stored in a system. Velocity refers to how quickly the information feeds into a system. Variety refers to the numerous formats of data that can be recorded. If any or all of these exceed the capabilities of traditional processing techniques, congratulations — you’re dealing with Big Data.
The Type of Data Every Pharmacy Should Gather
When it comes to your pharmacy, you probably have more data at your fingertips than you realize. Every customer interaction is filled with data that can be used to improve patient care as well as your bottom line. It’s all about knowing which data to pay attention to.
How many scripts are filled each day? Each week? What is the difference in volume between filling prescriptions on a Sunday versus filling them on a Thursday? Which days keep your techs the busiest, and which days allow the time to explore more value-based care initiatives? It’s a simple stat, but it provides a wealth of insight.
Revenue Per Prescription
How much money are you making per prescription sold? Which prescriptions provide you with the most revenue? The most profit? Which medications are you selling at a loss? When you have a complete understanding of your revenue per prescription, you also have a complete understanding of your revenue opportunities.
Your patient has their medication, but have you received payment from their insurance? Keep revenue from slipping through the cracks by keeping track of which claims have been paid and which ones are still open.
How often do your patients refill their prescriptions on time? Which ones are late by a week or more? When patients don’t refill their medications when they’re supposed to, it means they aren’t following the medication plan. When you know who is off track, you can help them get back on. Late refills aren’t just potentially lost revenue; they are also detrimental to patient health.
Use Analytics to Make an Action Plan
So your analytics program has gathered all this data. It even displays it for you in a nifty, easy-to-understand dashboard. So what do you do next?
Data provides insight, but insight alone is not enough. You have to take that insight and build a plan of action around it. If one of your goals is to increase medication adherence for your patients, refill frequency is a good place to start. Send reminders to patients when it should be time to refill, and put heavier focus on the ones who often refill late.
If you want to focus on generating more revenue for your business, you might want to look at your revenue per prescription. In particular, pay close attention to the medications your pharmacy is selling at a loss. You could also look at which third parties reimburse you the most for different medications and use that knowledge in future decisions.
Those are just two examples — there’s no limit to what you can do with the right data insights. But the trick is, you have to do something about it. So gather your data, make your plan, and crush those goals.
More information leads to better answers. That’s the entire idea behind data gathering and analytics. The more you measure, the better you can improve. Used properly, analytics can make it easier for pharmacies to take better care of their patients AND provide financial security for their business. That’s something that brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “data-driven.”