How to Use Data to Transform Pharmacy Practice
Tips to help community-based pharmacists use the data at their fingertips to better market and provide the enhanced pharmacy services that drive practice transformation.
Community pharmacies are filled with meaningful data nearly every day. Data can be organized to tell stories when partnering with physicians, other health care professionals, and payers to expand community-based patient care. The COVID-19 pandemic is an example of how useful pharmacy data can be in identifying, sharing, and responding to the testing and vaccination needs of local communities and large populations.
While pharmacists can qualitatively describe the needs of their communities by reflecting on the prescriptions they receive and dispense, the medication dispensing process quantitatively collects large amounts of data that can be used to further understand the unique needs of these populations. Here, we share 3 tips to help community-based pharmacists use the data at their fingertips to better market and provide the enhanced pharmacy services that drive practice transformation.
1. Collect Data
First, collect your data. Consider what data sources are available in your pharmacy every day. One large source of data is the pharmacy management (dispensing) system. Data describing your patient population will support your qualitative patient care stories with quantitative numbers.
Data can be extracted from most dispensing systems and shared to boost your collaborations and referrals with other health care professionals. For example, a pharmacy in rural Pennsylvania downloaded prescription reports prior to a “get to know each other” visit with a local physician office.1
This allowed the pharmacist to learn more about the physician’s patient population and to tailor the discussion to the enhanced pharmacy services that could best meet the needs of their mutual patients.
Another source of data is the clinical documentation (electronic health record) software. Consider using data from pharmacist e-Care plans to describe success caring for individual patients over time (e.g., reduced blood pressures, improved PHQ9 scores, or optimized lipid profiles).
- Try downloading reports that characterize the number of patients you serve by prescriber. For example, 200 of Dr. Smith’s patients were vaccinated for herpes zoster at your pharmacy; 100 of Dr. Johnson’s patients received a comprehensive medication review in 2021 and 30 major medication-related problems were resolved by the pharmacy team; 10 of Dr. Patel’s patients received medication adherence packaging services so they could continue to live independently at home).
- Contact your software provider for help extracting data and downloading reports.
2. Create a Visualization
Second, create a visualization of your data. Visualizations are pictorial representations of data and should appeal to your intended audience. Is your audience a physician, nurse practitioner, or audiologist down the street? Or perhaps a local, state, or US legislator.
It is important to know your audience and to tailor your message accordingly. In general, keep data visualizations simple and easy-to-understand. Present data that actually matter.
For example, therapeutic gaps-in-care that affect quality measures will be important to highlight to a primary care physician. The number of patients who received a COVID-19 vaccine in your municipality will be influential to a local or state legislator.
- Infographics—a specific type of data visualization—can capture the breadth of services provided by your pharmacy team in pictures rather than in words. There are several infographic creators (e.g., Canva, Venngage) available online. Consider asking a student pharmacist for help displaying your data in a visually compelling way.
- Visually connect your data with the pharmacy services that you offer. For example, you might identify 35 patients from a single prescriber who use more than 10 chronic medications. Use this opportunity to highlight to the prescriber with visualizations how your medication synchronization or adherence packaging services could benefit these patients.
- Maps can also be a useful tool for connecting data with stories.2 Consider a map to show the local and surrounding communities you serve. Pinpoint special populations, such as senior community centers or elementary schools. Highlight the neighborhoods and surrounding areas you serve that are in food deserts, underserved, or designated as health care professional shortage areas.
3. Share and Collaborate
Finally, share your data. You may consider sharing your data visualizations via social media, visits with local prescribers and care teams, or meetings with local employers, health plans, or other payers.
Patient care stories supported with concrete data will help you speak to your audience about the patients you serve. Data presented visually may also help you to collaborate with others for payment of services that further improve patient care outcomes.
- Print and leave behind your data visualizations for those with whom you meet and collaborate.
- Partner with a nearby college or school of pharmacy to create policy briefings for local, state, and federal legislators using your data.
Pharmacists with individual and population-scale data can use these powerful tools to better the health of the communities they serve. When stories are supported by data, the outcomes can be powerful and sustain practice transformation.
- Carroll JC, Renner HM, McGivney MS, et al. Using prescription dispensing data infographics to facilitate collaborative pharmacist-prescriber discussions on mutual patients. J Am Pharm Assoc. 2019 Mar-Apr;59(2):232-237.e1.
- Berenbrok LA, Tang S, Coley KC, et al. Access to potential COVID-19 vaccine administration facilities: A geographic information systems analysis. February 2, 2021. https://s8637.pcdn.co/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Access-to-Potential-COVID-19-Vaccine-Administration-Facilities-2-2-2021.pdf