Simply put, data is the lifeblood at Express Scripts, a $44 billion pharmacy benefits management company based in St. Louis.
The Fortune 100 company processes close to 1.5 billion prescriptions for some 300 million consumers per year, all the while analyzing the wealth of information that accompanies each order.
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"As we track a prescription through data entry and the pharmacy process and into the fulfillment system, we're tracking all sorts of information that gets fed to an analytics team that is focused on process improvement," says CTO Jim Lammers. Internally, it's how the company speeds delivery and cuts errors, he says.
But Express Scripts also processes more than 1 billion pharmacy insurance claims annually, and they represent a goldmine of information that could help cut healthcare costs and address the multibillion-dollar healthcare problem created by people who don't take their medications as prescribed, says Lammers.
Computers, mobile phones, tablet devices, sensors, tweets, texts, and posts to social networks, not to mention run-of-the-mill retail and registration transactions online, are all generating potentially valuable data. A lot of data. By 2020, IDC estimates that the number of business-to-business and business-to-consumer online transactions will reach 450 billion per day. We took a look at three organizations that are ahead of the curve in generating big business value from big data and analytics technology. At the top of their lists of lessons learned: A deeply-rooted culture of analytics and a relentless focus on cost efficiency and process improvement are invaluable.
The win: Lower healthcare costs
At Express Scripts, claims data can show whether patients are filling their prescriptions in the most cost-effective way, which is frequently by mail order. If they aren't, Express Scripts can intercede by providing the patient with additional cost information and offer to switch delivery fulfillment methods for them with a minimum of hassle.
"If they're taking a maintenance medication for high cholesterol and we know they've been taking it but they've been taking it from a retail pharmacy, we know if they move to a mail order, they can save," Lammers says. "We'll do proactive emails and drive the patient to our website and use specific messaging to get them to make [a mail order] decision."
What it boils down to is "doing the data analysis, creating the interaction and getting out the right message so that the patient can make a different choice," Lammers explains. "One of the key tenets is that if we offer people the right choice, they'll take the right path."
It sounds easy, but behind the seemingly effortless redirection is a massive amount of technology, not to mention a strict culture of analytics that permeates virtually all of Express Scripts' operations.
One of the company's largest IT investments has been in IBM's master data management software, which is critical to creating a single record that connects all of a customer's actions, regardless of whether a transaction is made via email, on the Web, by phone or in person at a retail pharmacy.