Every minute, in every hospital, patients trust their doctors and nurses to treat them with the drugs they need. Yet many of those patients aren’t aware drug shortages are an under-the-radar crisis that has plagued hospital pharmacy leaders for more than a decade.

Adam Orsborn and Nate Peaty, co-founders of OrbitalRX’s drug shortage management solution, dealt with that crisis first-hand in their prior pharmacy roles at Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston Salem, North Carolina. There, more than 300 pharmacy employees work around the clock to ensure the medications providers depend on to care for patients are there when they need them and used safely.

“The problem we faced managing drug shortages was having so many different data sources and stakeholders that needed to collaborate,” says Peaty, PharmD and OrbitalRX chief product officer. “There wasn’t anything other than Excel spreadsheets and a bunch of people trying to gather data to tie it all together.”

There had to be a better way.

Underlying causes of drug shortages vary

Drug shortages drew national attention more than a year ago after Hurricane Maria cause major disruption in Puerto Rico’s substantial pharmaceutical manufacturing industry, which serves patients globally.

Other causes of drug shortages include quality issues in manufacturing, a limited number of manufacturers of certain drugs, and unexpected spikes in demand.

Hospital and health system pharmacies have been managing and mitigating the impact of drug shortages for years, relying on manual means, more man-hours, and data systems that fell short of delivering on their promises.

Hospital pharmacy leaders grow frustrated with lagging technology

“We were dissatisfied with the state of technology, even back when we were in pharmacy training at the University of Wisconsin,” says Orsborn, PharmD and OrbitalRX CEO.

They knew healthcare technology had untapped potential for data and analytic capabilities they wanted for their pharmacy systems.

He and eventually Peaty left Wake Forest Baptist Health to consult with other technology companies, offering their real-world hospital pharmacy experience to help technology advance more quickly for their peers in the medical community.

They found hospital pharmacy leaders were thankful to talk with a vendor who understood them and talked their language.

“Hospital pharmacy leaders depend on technology solutions every minute of the day, to take care of hundreds, sometimes thousands of patients in their health system,” says Peaty.

“Because we have first-hand experience of what they’re going through, we know how important it is for them and their team members to have useful and reliable data at their fingertips, wherever they are at the moment, so they can ensure patients have the medications they need.”

A solution built by pharmacy leaders, for pharmacy leaders

Two years ago, Peaty and Orsborn turned their pharmaceutical and consulting expertise into OrbitalRX, a pharmacy automation company to help pharmacy leaders in hospitals more easily and effectively use data to better manage drug shortages.

The two each have a decade of experience in the hospital pharmacy setting, in many instances having done their customers’ job longer than their customers have.

“We can speak to what drives them crazy,” says Peaty, “because we’ve experienced it: inventory data that’s spread across systems, an unmanageable amount of information in multiple drug purchase catalogs, and lack of documentation when trying to communicate effectively with stakeholders. Our technology solution addresses all three of these areas.”

Adam and Nate working on drug shortage managementSince hospital pharmacy leaders are often on the move, working in and between meetings, the OrbitalRX drug shortage management solution is designed to be mobile, for real-time information and assessment. The solution also scales for enterprise use, allowing large hospital health systems to better collaborate across multiple sites.

Product demos have garnered feedback from hospital pharmacists who say:

  • Drug shortages are the most frustrating thing in my day-to-day work
  • Right now we’re really working toward minimizing anything manual
  • This looks great; you’re solving a problem no one has figured out yet.
The cost of managing drug shortages

The expense of trying to manage drug shortages manually adds up, both in cost to the hospital as well as negative impact on patients.

“When you’re a hospital pharmacy leader faced with a drug shortage,” says Orsborn, “all of a sudden you have to figure out, where do I keep this drug? How much do I have on hand? Who is using it, and how fast are they using it? What are the alternatives that work the same way in the human body? Where can we buy those alternatives? What’s the best price I can get, and how long is that supply going to last?”

Many hospital personnel have to collaborate to answer those questions, often gathered around a spreadsheet, searching through catalogs, and collecting data from several different systems. One such huddle meeting could equal $1,000 to $1,500 dollars’ worth of labor expense. Multiply that several times a week for various drugs – such as Puerto Rican-produced saline bags.

The University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville has been using the OrbitalRX drug shortage management solution as a single platform from which the team can control all the medical center’s pharmacy systems and collate data feeds from their disparate systems.

The UVA medical center can be proactive and replenish inventory at a lower price point than if they only reacted to shortages. Rafael Saenz, PharmD, the director of pharmacy at the medical center, says he hopes to save more than $200,000 in fiscal year 2019.

Reducing risk in patient care

Hospital pharmacies manage medication use with a well-defined and highly controlled system of processes, which move a drug product from the loading dock all the way to the patient.

“Any change in that system adds risk, especially when that change happens unexpectedly,” says Peaty. “When you’re expecting to have one of the most important medications you rely on day to day, and it’s not there, suddenly your health system is having to make changes to a bunch of different systems and processes around that important drug. They may not have the time to really think through the consequences of a lot of those changes, and that is terrifying to most pharmacists.”

Orsborn and Peaty founded OrbitalRX to give pharmacy professionals more advanced awareness of those types of situations as well as more options to respond to them. Their drug shortage management solution helps reduce complexity, proactively manage data and workflows, and better communicate with hospital leaders and other departments about how to manage drug shortages. Peaty says:

“All of those things have a net value that rolls up and results in safer, better care for patients in our health system.”

To schedule a demo of the OrbitalRX solution, send us a message.