IBM Watson Health, OrbitalRX partner to manage drug shortages

By Jenni Spinner

- Last updated on GMT

(Oleg Elkov/iStock via Getty Images Plus)
(Oleg Elkov/iStock via Getty Images Plus)

Related tags IBM Data management Drug shortages data analysis

The collaboration combines two solutions to help pharma and healthcare providers deal with myriad challenges associated with limited drug supplies.

Healthcare technology outfit IBM Watson health and drug shortage management platform provider OrbitalRX are collaborating to create integrated technology to help healthcare professionals avoid and manage challenges associated with limited supplies of certain therapies. The technology combines OrbitalRX’s Drug Shortage Management Platform and IBM Micromedex to create a unified solution to tackle shortages.

Outsourcing-Pharma (OSP) recently spoke with Adam Orsborn (AO), co-founder and CEO of OrbitalRX, about the problems drug shortages can cause and how the collaborative platform can mitigate the problem.

OSP: Could you please tell us your perspective on the threat of global drug shortages—what developments have we seen in recent months, specific drugs threatened, and how COVID-19 is complicating the issue?

AO: Hospitals are under significant pressure. More resources are going toward caring for COVID-19 and other emergent cases while revenue is suffering with the postponement and cancellation of elective procedures. Budgets are strained, forcing hospitals to lay off staff or delay the hiring of new employees even as staff workload increases.

We’re seeing shortages of drug products that are considered essential to provide care for COVID-19 and other critically ill patients.  Sedatives used for ventilating patients, electrolyte fluids for dialysis in renal failure, and IV steroids that treat inflammation have been a constant issue for pharmacy buyers throughout the pandemic.   In many cases, the increased work effort due to COVID-19 is causing pharmacy staff members and leaders to work long shifts and extra hours making it even more difficult to manage the labor intense drug shortage problem. We're currently following these drugs on our COVID Tracker​.

OSP: How does the OrbitalRX platform help healthcare professionals deal with such challenges?

Adam Orsborn, co-founder and CEO, OrbitalRX

AO: Our platform provides full visibility of drug shortage data across their entire health system, eliminates the need to search multiple sources of information and helps to identify alternative procurement sources, as well as clinical alternatives, thanks to Micromedex. The platform automatically creates communications to doctors and nurses to inform them of the clinical strategy for dealing with a particular drug shortage, tracks and follows-up on action steps, and provides key performance indicators (such as cost control and product use) to the appropriate stakeholder.

Users are also able to manage details around restrictions, supply status, allocations, track product ETAs, and more. As pharmacy teams find themselves stretched on resources, our combined solution can help. Without our novel solution, all of this work is done manually with spreadsheets and hours of monitoring software systems and data analysis.

OSP: Then, how does Micromedex work?

AO: Micromedex contains in-depth clinical evidence from 8,500 journals and 750,000 publications and is one of the largest online reference databases for medication information. It is used by more than 4,500 hospitals and health systems in over 80 countries worldwide to help support decision-making in medication therapy management, disease and condition management, toxicology, alternative medicine and patient education.

Micromedex is also designed to address specific questions, such as dosing and IV compatibility and supports 170m document views annually. It is playing a critical role in the ongoing effort to address this unprecedented pandemic.

OSP: Why does unifying OrbtialRX and Micromedex make particular sense at this point in time?

AO: Unfortunately, relief from COVID-19 isn’t likely to come soon. As states are reopening, most are experiencing surges in positive cases and hospitalizations.

A second wave of the novel coronavirus is still anticipated for the fall, right around when flu season will begin picking up. It’s potentially a perfect storm that would place further strain on our embattled health systems.

We expect the next 12 months will reveal that nearly every health system is looking closely at improving their operations with automation solutions like OrbitalRX to a significant degree.  The same medications and supply chains that were heavily strained by COVID-19 before will be further pressured for the foreseeable future.

Due to this likely scenario, this collaboration between OrbitalRX and IBM Watson Health will allow us to help health-system pharmacy teams prepare to better manage the second wave of COVID-19 and shortages that may accompany it. Additionally, as new therapies become available, OrbitalRX and Micromedex will help teams to quickly track drug shortages and find alternatives that solve those shortages in real time.

Together, OrbitalRX and Micromedex are uniquely positioned to help hospital pharmacy teams address drug shortages and quickly innovate to respond to new challenges as they appear.

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