The Growing Importance of Specialty Pharmacy Software Applications
Therigy co-founder and CEO Russel Allinson, RPh, MS, discusses technological advances that allows specialty pharmacies to easily provide uniform care to every patient across multiple disease states.
With the emergence of software platforms and other technologies, specialty pharmacies are now able to easily provide uniform care to every patient across multiple disease states.
An effective care management platform can be used to help pharmacists keep up with the ever-advancing world of specialty pharmacy through automatic updates regarding medication and best practices. One technology solution that has accomplished these goals is TherigySTM, a software application used in 60% of URAC-accredited, health system-owned specialty pharmacies that has been used to provide care for more than 120,000 patients.
Due to the innovative nature of TherigySTM, co-founder Russel Allinson, RPh, MS, chief executive officer and chief clinical officer of Therigy, was awarded the coveted title of Next-Generation Pharmacy Technology Innovator for 2016, presented by Pharmacy Times® and Parata.
Specialty Pharmacy Times® interviewed Allinson for his expert perspectives on how technology is advancing the goals of value-based health care in specialty pharmacy.
Q: What does winning the Next-Generation Pharmacist® award for Technology Innovator mean to you? For Therigy?
A: Winning the Next-Generation Pharmacist® award for Technology Innovator really validates the vision I had when Joe Morse and I started Therigy. I’ve been in specialty pharmacy for 20 years, and I knew what pharmacists needed was an automated, electronic way to deliver care management in order to effectively provide pharmacy care.
That’s really why we developed Therigy; so pharmacists would have better tools to provide better care. For me, winning the award validates our achievement in advancing patient care standards and distinguishes TherigySTM as the leading therapy management solution in the marketplace today. As a company, winning the award is a pat on the back for every team member for the past 10 years, who worked really hard to implement our vision, and made winning this award possible. In my mind, we all won the award, not just me.
Q: How does winning this award demonstrate the goals Therigy set out to accomplish when it was founded?
A: Technology was part of our strategy since we opened our doors in 2006. At the time, we were inherently aware of the technology opportunities, since the lack of these opportunities in the marketplace was evident. As a consulting firm, we witnessed the frustration pharmacists experienced when attempting to manually keep up with new therapies and drugs. Ten years ago, there really wasn’t a technology solution that provided the structure, process, and critical content to guide pharmacy care for patients on biotech products.
Today, we serve over 1300 pharmacy professionals across the company, and we have about 120,000 specialty patients who have been cared for using TherigySTM. Those numbers really validate both the need and usefulness of the platform, and is reflective of the goals we have achieved.
Q: How has technology transformed health care in the past 10 years?
A: In this new value-based world of health care where we’re looking to quantify outcomes, many of the innovations brought to the market really drive improvements through decreased costs, and increased quality to drive increased value. It’s going to take technology to drive those breakthroughs, especially in information gathering, research, treatments, and communications.
All of those capabilities are going to become necessary tools for health care professionals to be able to manage more patients, more effectively to drive down costs and improve outcomes. Especially in the world of specialty pharmacy, technology is enabling therapy management programs to scale up quickly, reduce costs, and reduce errors.
These benefits are very important to our customers. The specialty pharmacies want to provide safe and effective therapy that is consistent across all their patients. Without technology systems, pharmacies would have to dedicate a lot of resources to maintain their programs. I think we have been able to ease the burden on pharmacies so that we develop and maintain their care programs and content. If we can do that centrally, and do it accurately and efficiently, that is another way to bring down the cost of health care and improve outcomes.
TheirgySTM is really a foundational platform for clinical programs for specialty products, and we are interested in building on top of this foundation to include advances in technology to become more efficient, and more effective.
Q: Why is the importance of software platforms growing in the specialty pharmacy space?
A: It enables the pharmacy to standardize their care, so that we know what the best practice guidelines are. Through medical publications, we know the best way to treat these patients. By taking that information and providing it to the users through a cloud-based, easy-to-use technology platform, we put that power in their hands. When we configure critical information into it, then all the pharmacy staff is working off the same manual. I think that is a reason why it is preferred by 1 in 5 URAC-accredited pharmacies.
Because they subscribe to TheirgySTM, they are always getting up-to-date information and patient education to more effectively manage the disease and specific treatment. As I look into the future, I have no doubt that the accreditation standards will become more rigid, and the stakeholder requirements are going to continue to increase. Technology is the only answer to providing these more intensive clinical services effectively and efficiently.
Q: What challenges exist with operating and maintaining a software platform for specialty pharmacies?
A: Keeping up with advances in biotech therapy is probably the largest challenge we have. The industry has evolved quite a bit over the last 10 years, and there is a lot of variability in our customers’ needs. We started out as a platform for 1 company for the management of 1 therapy, and it had less than 100 patients. It has grown into a platform used by more than 125 pharmacies to manage care plans for 20 different diseases for over 125,000 patients.
The only way we keep up with requests and suggestions for new features and functionalities is by having an incredible team of clinicians, information technology experts, and support staff who drive product development. A variety of dispensing systems are being used, new drugs and indications are coming out frequently, so our therapy management platform has to be flexible enough to support all of those customer needs. Therein lies the challenge, but I think we have done a great job integrating with dispensing systems and offering robust reporting capabilities that can be customized.
Q: What can TherigySTM offer to pharmacists and patients that no other technology solution can?
A: What we have tried to do is satisfy the 3 basic needs of a pharmacy. One is they need a way to organize their clinical work. There are a lot of pharmacy dispensing systems on the market, and they all do a good job for dispensing, but none of them really help the pharmacist organize their clinical work. As the pharmacy grows, their work becomes more complex, and they have more stakeholders. Keeping that organized is difficult.
The second thing we want to provide is a standardized care process, so the pharmacy can be assured their staff is doing things in a uniform way. The care plans are based on publications, which are all annotated, so the pharmacist is confident where Therigy is getting the information from. The third thing is that as the pharmacy uses TherigySTM, the documentation they put in the system then becomes their data. They can use this data to evaluate their success, report to their stakeholders, and include it in quality improvement programs.
Q: How does TherigySTM shape patient experiences and outcomes?
A: I have friends in academia that refer to something as a communication prescription. In other words, how does the patient want to be communicated with? I have read that about 25% to 30% prefer to interact with their pharmacy via text or email. We, as clinicians, should be able to provide them with the information in the way they prefer. We are designing the future of TherigySTM to meet those future needs through the use of those new technologies.
Q: Over time, how has TherigySTM evolved with new research, treatment options, and customer feedback?
A: We have a commitment to our customers that we will update that information in the system no less frequently than every 30 days. Quite often, if we are in contact with the manufacturer before that release, we can prepare that information so that we update the content even closer to the approval of a new product. We have staff that are devoted to keeping up with information as it is published, and continually revising the content in TheirgySTM.
For example, we will be launching a new therapeutic category for osteoporosis based on guidelines from the National Osteoporosis Foundation. A number of our customers have asked for this module, so we are bringing that to market in the very near future. Another example is oncology, which is an area of therapeutics that is exploding with new products. Today, we have 60 individual drug modules in oncology, but as oncology becomes more personalized and targeted, we expect oncology will evolve into a multi-drug, combination product.
We are working towards integrating the care plans for 2 or 3 different therapies into a unified care plan that is efficient for the pharmacist to manage. We look at our job as being the information source that needs to keep the system current and to keep up with changes in the market place so that our customers have the latest information at their fingertips.