Shared data gives hospitals benchmarking support in a variety of fields. Yet, data registries remain largely underused. One challenge facing hospital leaders is a culture that can restrict the flow of information from one organization to another. While some information must remain confidential for patient privacy reasons or because clinical research is in progress, leaders have an immense opportunity to share peer-to-peer data on the best treatment for patients. This is often the same type of data sharing displayed in the peer-reviewed journals upon which physicians rely to improve care for patients.

Leaders often think of big data in health care in the context of electronic health records. But just as medication management is one of the central functions of successful patient management in the hospital, pharmacy data are increasingly important to leaders, too.

A match for success

At Aultman Health Foundation in Ohio, we saw that automating the intravenous compounding process is becoming increasingly critical for patient safety. We were interested in using robotic automation to perform sterile compounding, as its standardized accuracy and reduced human intervention promote patient safety.  

Often when we hear of a data registry, it is in relation to clinical care or research and is purposed for use in examining trends in specific disease states. Through a vendor partner, however, we are able to leverage a global registry that encompasses best practices around medication compounding procedures and mixtures. While supporting our clinical operations and the safety of our patients, such knowledge of best practices makes a profound impact on the workflow of our pharmacy team.

A shared data registry for evaluating best practices, as opposed to clinical data, lets us further improve our compounding practice — and shows other institutions how we are implementing IV automation technology and enhanced patient care in our system in a de-identified fashion. The registry allows us to evaluate the financial feasibility of automated IV compounding more accurately for one drug in house, rather than outsourcing the process.

Before we started using the registry, we could have spent days researching whether robotic compounding made sense for our facility or if outsourcing was the better option. Now, we are able to observe real numbers from peer hospitals to better evaluate the possible return on investment for Aultman. Like every hospital in the country, we try to do more with less to control the cost of care.

Collaboration benefits everyone

Benchmarking and data insights are possible only when hospitals are willing to share their data — and allow these data to be aggregated in ways that reveal trends and patterns. Central to this opportunity is the ability to work with vendor partners who foster data sharing, and who allow users to collaborate anonymously, to draw significant operational insights. In our case, this collaboration means we are leveraging information from millions of IV doses prepared robotically across the country to enhance our own practices. Our investment in pharmacy technology solutions is beginning to pay off beyond the short-term benefits that justified our initial investments.

Information sharing is essential to advancing clinical practice. We all attend annual meetings and conferences to learn from one another as clinicians and department leaders. Hospitals are beginning to realize that, even though the market is fiercely competitive, the old adage “A rising tide floats all boats” holds true when everyone works together.

Leaders at Aultman and elsewhere are inspired by technology developers who bring these innovations to hospitals and who are pushing for change. Data sharing creates a platform to fundamentally improve patient care across the country.

Jeffrey Fostyk, Pharm.D., is a compliance pharmacist at Aultman Health Foundation in Canton, Ohio.

The opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the policy of the American Hospital Association.