Keeping the Patient First -  How Technology Supports a Patient Focus

8.21.19 By Deb Ferber


I’ve been in the consulting business for a long time. When I first started consulting for 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, leading an organization that delivers technology solutions. In that time, I have learned a tremendous amount about specialty pharmacy business and operations.

One priority that consistently stands out is patient care. In fact, patient care and experience have been a theme at industry conferences I’ve recently attended - the National Association of Specialty Pharmacy (NASP) last fall, Asembia in April and I am confident we will be discussing it in a few weeks at NASP 2019.

Meet our IT subject matter experts at the NASP19 happy hour


The common challenge for specialty pharmacies today: How do you meet all the demands of running your business and service your patients? The answer here often involves implementing technology initiatives. But that often leads to another question: How do you make sure your technology projects do not impact patient care? No wonder there’s so much confusion around digital transformation!

These are the top ways your tech initiatives can be executed from a patients-first perspective:


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.)


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.


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. And it is one of the reasons we stay with an account for many years as their vendor of choice.

The patient is always at the forefront of the conversation in healthcare and pharmacy. Want to make sure that your patients won't be negatively impacted by your next technology project (or its implementation)? Then let’s continue the conversation!

Our team of specialty pharmacy IT experts will be available to answer your questions at NASP 19. Find us at booth 301 or reserve your spot for the 4th Source Happy Hour now.


Join Us at the 4th Source NASP19 Happy Hour

Join 4th Source at NASP19


Tuesday, September 10th starting at 8:30 PM | The Lobby, Marriott Wardman Park

Free drinks and appetizers | RSVP for a chance to win an Apple Watch