How data can help pharmacies

by Dan Kotok

Express Scripts, a pharmacy benefit management organization, “has collected 22 petabytes of healthcare data from 83 million patients. To give an idea of scale, if this amount of data were converted into an MP3 format, the music file would take approximately 44,000 years to listen to.”

What could pharmacies possibly be doing with that huge amount of data? Some very useful stuff, as it turns out! Pharmacies are using healthcare data to reduce prescription drug abuse, save money, and improve healthcare research.


Reduce prescription drug abuse

The instructions on the back of that little orange bottle? They’re pretty important. As the United States faces an opioid epidemic, it’s become clear that your pharmacy’s instructions shouldn’t be taken lightly. On top of causing the deaths of almost 218,000 people from 1999 to 2017, non-compliance “is also taking a large financial toll on healthcare in the U.S. . . . Non-adherence was estimated to cost the U.S. approximately $290 billion, which equated to about 13 percent of total spending on healthcare nationwide, or of 2.3 percent of GDP.”

Pharmacies can use data to predict patients who may be at risk of opioid addiction or other types of prescription drug abuse. They do this by “analyzing the frequency with which patients refill prescriptions and other use-related data.” With these predictions, pharmacies can help these patients.

Express Scripts’ ScreenRX program, for example, sends patients personalized interventions and connects them with specialist pharmacists.

“For hepatitis C patients, the company says this support has cut the rate of non-adherence to curative treatment from 8.3% to 4.8%.” By using data, pharmacies are essentially saving lives.


Save money

As cloud computing and data analysis get better and better, pharmacies can focus beyond just collecting and storing data. Today, the focus is on operational optimization and efficiency.

Pharmacies are using data to “increase visibility into the accounting/finance of pharmacy and opportunities to address and remediate ‘leakages in profitability,’” said David J. Fong, PharmD. They’re also using data to “streamline operational processes to control cost and improve efficiency.”

One example of this is OptumRx. Through data analysis, this company found that ADHD medication was being overprescribed for adult patients. As the company took steps to correct this issue, they saved $110,000—all with the power of leveraging data in healthcare.


Improve research

It seems pretty obvious that pharmacies would use data to improve research. But how exactly?

According to McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm, the success of pharmaceutical research and development is declining. How can pharmaceutical companies manage and analyze their data more effectively and improve their research and development?

McKinsey has eight suggestions, some of which include:

Integrate data generated from all stages.

Collaborate both internally and externally.

Deploy smart devices for data capture.

Enhance safety monitoring.

Increase focus on real-world outcomes.

As pharmaceutical companies follow these suggestions, they will be able to use data to secure better patient outcomes and be a more effective part of the healthcare industry.

Pharma intelligence, for example, offers a way for pharmaceutical companies to collaborate externally by providing research and analytics tools. These tools help companies “identify and evaluate strategic opportunities within the global pharmaceutical market” and “benchmark and monitor with alerts.”


Pharmacies have access to a lot of data, and they’re using it to improve the healthcare industry and patient outcomes. Pharmacies are using healthcare data to reduce prescription drug abuse, save money, and improve healthcare research.

In the upcoming part five of this blog series, I take a look at the specific ways that big data can be beneficial to a newer but huge player in the healthcare space: medical health device companies.


Dan-KotokDan is a Senior Account Executive here at Simplus. He has specialties in, training user and system testing cycles, end user and support training, business process mapping, LSS project management, implementations, and change management.

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