Addressing the Unique Challenges of Developing a Home Infusion Pharmacy Network in Hawaii

Byron Yoshino, PharmD, CEO of Pharmacare Hawaii, discusses the rapidly growing home infusion space within Pharmacare Hawaii’s network of pharmacies.

Pharmacy Times interviewed Byron Yoshino, PharmD, CEO of Pharmacare Hawaii, about how Pharmacare Hawaii is growing its home infusion pharmacy network through the use of intelligence gathered from data analysis.

Alana Hippensteele: Hi, I’m Alana Hippensteele with Pharmacy Times. Joining me is Byron Yoshino, PharmD, CEO of Pharmacare Hawaii, who is here to discuss Pharmacare Hawaii’s efforts to support its rapidly growing home infusion pharmacy network by leveraging intelligence derived from data from billions of medical events across its network.

So Byron, why is the home infusion space growing so quickly within Pharmacare Hawaii’s regional network, and what is the organization’s reach within that region?

Byron Yoshino: Thank you, Alana, for that nice introduction. Home infusion started as a cost saving alternative to hospitalization, and that hasn't changed. So that's always a driving force. Like everywhere else, the pandemic has really stimulated the utilization of home infusion and other kinds of services outside of the hospital.

So, each island in Hawaii has its own limitations with hospitals, so home infusion can fill some of those needs as well. Also, I believe a lot fewer people really want to go to the hospital if they don't have to, or they want to leave as soon as possible, which drives many patients into home infusion.

In addition, with the new drugs being developed, there are so many that are in the pipeline that are currently infused and can be done in the home.

Alana Hippensteele: Yeah, absolutely. What makes the home infusion therapy market particularly unique in terms of its requirements?

Byron Yoshino: A home infusion division is unique due to the need to have the expertise in both pharmacy, nursing, and home health care. For the pharmacy aspect, pharmacists must be knowledgeable of intravenous and injectable drug therapies, as well as the delivery methods of those drugs in the home setting.

The same is true for nurses who have to have this skill set for intravenous drugs, administration, and management, as well as the skill set of home health nurses. We’re providing infusion services in the home instead of the hospital, without the infrastructure of the hospital, so information-wise or technology-wise, it's important to have all that available at your fingertips, if you will, to be successful with all the therapies.

Alana Hippensteele: Absolutely. How can intelligence derived from medical events help to improve patient care?

Byron Yoshino: Intelligence gathering is paramount to our success. Intelligence derived from the medical events adds to the experience for pharmacists and nurses who manage patients, and that is shared across a broader network that obviously becomes much more valuable with a lot more input.

Capturing clinical outcomes is one very important aspect of that care, and it's very tedious and time consuming. So technology also helps to make sure that all that is completed.

Compiling intelligence is always a challenge, so we recently engaged with Inovalon, who has a product that can help us with that. We hope that will be a very big game changer for us. Leveraging clinical data from this collaboration, we can help support our physicians and clinicians.

Alana Hippensteele: Right, right. What are some of the common obstacles to home infusion pharmacy care, and how can intelligence derived from medical events address these challenges?

Byron Yoshino: One of the challenges in home infusion is communicating with patients and capturing, as I said, all that data and information about their medical history, as well as their current conditions, and technology obviously plays a big role in that. So we hope that with the technology that's available to us, that it makes the job much easier and makes us much more effective.

Alana Hippensteele: Right, right. Absolutely. What are some examples of how technology stands to improve day-to-day operations at pharmacies within Pharmacare Hawaii's regional network?

Byron Yoshino: Technology can improve patient care, customer service, and operating efficiencies. For patient care, capturing data is required for clinical notes, as well as for meeting accreditation standards. Standards of care and technology can assure all of those data elements are captured and recorded and make it more efficient for all our clinicians and our support staff.

For customer service, technology helps with keeping in touch with patients and their caregivers and making it convenient for them to reach us or to stay in touch with us.

Alana Hippensteele: Right. What are some of the ways using technology and clinical data in the pharmacy can improve patients' long-term outcomes and also quality of life?

Byron Yoshino: Well, with our current technology, that is certainly a challenge, and we're hoping that the new technology will help us be much more efficient in that matter. That is why we engage with the current solution that Inovalon has to take us to the next level, if you will. The information available will be automated and shared in real time with our providers as well, and that could be a real game changer for us.