Optimizing Patient Data in the Time of COVID-19


Pharmacists must remain nimble to help patients continue receiving the medications they need, as technology now plays a central role in workflow and medication management.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced society to change rapidly and in incalculable ways, bringing stakeholders and health care organizations into the 21st century and enabling them to operate with more efficiency and greater flexibility. Nevertheless, pharmacists and providers must remain nimble to help patients continue receiving the medications they need, as technology now plays a central role in workflow and medication management.

This enormous shift has also brought opportunities to leverage data and embrace technology to meet the needs of patients and providers. As more pharmacies and health systems tap into larger sets of data from disparate systems, they hope to access relevant information that is high quality, reliable and relevant.

For too many of these organizations, however, the opportunity has not been fully realized. In fact, many pharmacies and health systems have failed to use the immense amount of data that are available to them, even though this information holds the answers for improving clinical, financial, and overall operational outcomes.1

Health care organizations that recognize better data means better health care must choose their data expert partner carefully to make gains, improve patient care, and find a firmer financial footing.

Choosing the Right Data Partner

The difference between success and failure often comes down to choosing the right data partner. For example, one health system hired a data firm to develop an AI product that attempted to get ahead of the practitioner’s diagnosis because the patient journey can be long, with weeks spent on diagnosis alone. Because their AI system was not advanced enough, the project failed.

In contrast, another health system hired a more innovation-minded data firm to develop a simpler application to predict whether a patient would prefer to be reminded about appointments and refills by text, phone call, or email. The project was a success, and the system gained powerful information on the preferences of its primary stakeholders to build off.

Organizations just stepping into the world of big data should start small, choose their data experts carefully, and consider how data can drive their clinical and patient-centered goals. The best place to begin is by looking at what technology has proven to be the most effective during the pandemic. Data experts can guide this process.

The best data partners push back on assumptions and question objectives for each project. They ask health systems to clearly identify their objectives and expectations of data, with the understanding that not all data are good data. The challenge is to turn data into actionable information to inform better decision making. It can also be about accessing data based on a target demographic to anticipate and meet their needs, such as patients with chronic illness or those facing health inequity.

Leveraging Data for Success

Many health care organizations are taking a data-driven, patient-focused set of actions to effect real change. They are also partnering with data experts who can provide deep analysis to determine the true nature of their goals and challenges.

These data innovation experts have a track record for delivering meaningful change that results in better health care outcomes across communities, regions, and the world. They serve as change agents that design data analysis tools and implement collaborative programs with intent, process, diligence, and broadmindedness. Opportunity lies in remaining persistent and building programs and performance measures that lead to genuine transformation.

With consumer health care behavior evolving rapidly—often from necessity—health care organization must learn from the pandemic and take more incremental approaches to data and technology to keep up with the demands of a changing marketplace.

The best data partner understands that data should not simply be about new technologies, but also an architecture and design to better engage patients for richer, more outcome-focused data sets that help redesign patient care for today’s complex, pandemic environment.

About the Author

Emad Samad is a fellow of the Thought Leadership & Innovation Foundation where he focuses on programs that increase economic empowerment and access to health care. Samad currently serves as president of Octaviant Financial, Inc, a specialty finance company that provides innovative payment strategies that make high-cost cell and gene therapies affordable. Previous to Octaviant, Samad was a senior member of the life sciences investment banking team at WBB Securities, where he focused his practice in the life sciences.


[1] Ngo, Nhat H.; Three Ways Big Data Is Transforming Pharmacy And Health System Operations (forbes.com); November 24, 2020; accessed August 17, 2021.

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