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NEW PRODUCT APPLICATIONS: Data Analytics Give Retinal Physicians an Edge

Designed for these users, analytics provide insights for benchmarking, clinical trials, and research.

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Vestrum Health, a provider of data analytic services, was founded with the intent to capture the value of patient data for the benefit of retina specialists and ultimately their patients.

“Electronic health record [EHR] data in its raw form isn’t well organized for nor designed for analysis,” says Tom Brogan, CEO of Vestrum Health. “It is difficult for physicians to extract clean and complete insights on a patient population from their EHR and aggregate it to see trends over a time period. Vestrum has developed proprietary algorithms that extract, clean, and aggregate data in the retina space.”

Brogan also notes that most data generated by retina specialists has been collected and sold through multiple channels including pharmacies, insurance companies, product manufacturers, drug distributors, and EHR companies, without benefitting the physicians who created and documented the data.

Thomas Ciulla, MD, MBA, volunteer clinical professor of ophthalmology at the Indiana University School of Medicine and chief medical officer at Clearside Biomedical, was an early adopter Vestrum’s services. He notes, “Management expert Peter Drucker popularized a crucial concept, ‘You can’t manage what you can’t measure.’ Key performance indicators are embedded within practice data, which is increasingly important to assess, especially as health care evolves from a volume-based system to a value-based system. Analyzing my patient data provided numerous opportunities for process improvement, leading to enhanced practice performance, better patient satisfaction, and the potential to improve outcomes.”

IMPORTANCE OF BENCHMARKING

Vestrum provides a monthly report that benchmarks a practice’s performance against regional and national performance. “It’s designed for busy specialists; it doesn’t require software knowledge,” says Nadeem Ahmad, COO of Vestrum Health. “Results are presented in graphs and intuitively obvious tables.”

Benchmarking gives physicians and practice administrators an easy way to understand how payers will view them. It also points to areas and processes that they can improve, and which ones work well. Nicholas Anderson, MD, partner and president of Southeastern Retina Associates in Knoxville, Tennessee, who is also a Vestrum co-developer and customer, uses Vestrum for its analytics package, benchmarking, clinical trials, compliance, reporting, and accountable care organization and payer therapy protocol management.

“These insights are important to ensure that we provide the highest quality care in an efficient manner,” Dr. Anderson says. “It’s also important for us to demonstrate to payers, accountable care organizations, and referring doctors that we provide efficient, high-quality care to the patients we share.”

Dr. Ciulla adds that benchmarking is particularly helpful to identify and target areas for process improvement. “Patient volumes, procedure volumes, anti-VEGF medication use, and outcomes are all areas that we can assess and target for improvement,” he says. “Once targeted, processes can be tracked. Vestrum’s monthly trend reports are particularly helpful for benchmarking.”

INSIGHTS FOR CLINICAL TRIALS

Vestrum has developed a patient identification initiative for clinical trials. Vestrum contracts with a clinical trial sponsor, programs the clinical trial protocol to select qualified patients, and provides patient analysis to a practice’s clinical trial coordinator and principle investigator, says Brogan. Practices use Vestrum to assist their clinical trials department with recruitment using the software to identify patients who meet specific inclusion and exclusion criteria for each clinical trial. Practices can then review the patient records and then contact and recruit them if the patient is suitable. This expedites the recruitment process and creates efficiency by allowing practices to identify potential patients very quickly. Vestrum can notify a physician prior to a patient visit that a patient may qualify for a trial or ensure that they are contacted if no visit was scheduled.

“This opportunity may be lost otherwise,” Brogan says.

Dr. Ciulla notes that prior to using Vestrum’s system, manual screening for trial candidates was time consuming, tedious, and error prone. “In addition to the efficiencies achieved for screening, data itself can be analyzed for research in epidemiology and therapeutic outcomes.”

USE FOR RESEARCH, PRESENTATIONS, AND PAPERS

Vestrum’s analysts specialize in generating highly complex data and meeting technical specifications requested by researchers, Brogan says. Vestrum analysts use the most advanced software to conduct an analysis to generate the information from a complex data set.

Vestrum has also worked with several practices and physicians on custom projects. The analysis has helped them identify or track the following:

  • Which patients forgo follow-up appointments,
  • Which physicians refer patients to a practice,
  • Patients’ diagnosis and treatment patterns,
  • Physician and office productivity,
  • If different offices within a practice have varying patient profiles, and
  • A comparison of a practice’s CPT coding with other practices.

It has also helped practices to defend payer audits.

OTHER BENEFITS

Vestrum has helped Dr. Anderson to automate a number of processes that it previously performed manually. “We are unaware of any other companies that provide similar services in terms of benchmarking, reporting, and clinical trial recruitment assistance,” he says.

Furthermore, Dr. Anderson has found the software package to be easy to use and intuitive. “Most reports are graphical, so they’re easy to read,” he says. “Other reports use standard software such as Excel, so they are simple to share, report, and integrate.”

WHAT ELSE YOU SHOULD KNOW

Currently, Vestrum has almost 350 retina specialists providing data. “This has grown by 50% over the last 18 months, and we anticipate similar growth going forward,” Ahmad says. “We currently have more than 1.5 million patients and this number is growing. However, the value in Vestrum’s data is in its history, completeness, quality, and expertise in conducting analysis. We can track patient history going back more than 5 years.”

Looking ahead, Vestrum plans to work with practices to access their practice management and billing data so that it can link financial data with EHR data and develop analytics that tie patient outcomes to costs for practices. “We will also develop the ability for practices to search their own data using our database,” Brogan concludes. RP