Prescription Benefits’ Information Silos Provide Feedstock for RxEOB

In health care, silos between industries prevent synergies like in the travel industry, where you can order your hotel, flight, rental car, and tourist sights all in one place. Interoperability–the Holy Grail of much health care policy, throughout the Meaningful Use and MACRA eras–is just one sliver of the information hoarding problem. There is much more to integrated care, and prescriptions illustrate the data exchange problems in spades. Pharmacist Robert Oscar recognized the business possibilities inherent in breaking through the walls, and formed RxEOB 15 years ago to address them.

RxEOB helps patients and their physicians make better decisions about medications, taking costs and other interests into account. Sold to health insurance plans and benefits managers, it’s an information management platform and a communication platform, viewing patients, health plans, physicians, pharmacists, and family members as team members.

It’s instructive to look at the various players in the prescription space, what data each gives to RxEOB, and what RxEOB provides to each in return.

Payers

These organizations have lots of data that’s useful in the RxEOB ecosystem: costs, formularies, and coverage information. What payers often lack is information such as price, benefit status, and tier for drugs “similar to” one that is being prescribed.

The “similar to” concept is central to the pharmaceutical field, from the decision made by drug companies to pursue research, through FDA approval (they want proof that a new medication is substantially better than ones it is similar to), to physician choices and payer coverage. There may be good reasons to prescribe a medication that costs more than ones to which it is similar: the patient may not be responding to other drugs, or may be suffering from debilitating side effects. Still, everyone should know what the alternatives are.

Physicians

One of RxEOB’s earliest services was simply to inform doctors about the details of the health care coverage their patients had. This is gradually becoming an industry function, but is still an issue. Nowadays, thanks to electronic health records, most physicians theoretically have access to all the information they need to prescribe thoughtfully. But the information they want may be buried in databases or unstructured documents, jumbled together with irrelevant details. RxEOB can extract and combine information on available drugs, formularies, authorization requirements, coverage information, and details such as patient drug histories to help the doctor make a quick, accurate decision.

Pharmacies

These can use RxEOB’s information on the benefits and cost coverage offered by health insurance for the patients they serve.

Benefits managers

These staff know a lot about patients’ benefits, which they provide to RxEOB. In return, RxEOB can help them set up portals and use text messaging or mobile apps to communicate to patients.

Consumers

Finally we come to the much-abused patients, who have the greatest stake in the whole system and are the least informed. The consumer would like to know everything that the rest of the system knows about pricing, alternatives, and coverage. And the consumer wants to know more: why they should take the drug in the first place, for instance, how to deal with side effects. RxEOB provides communication channels between the patient and all the other players. Thus, the company contributes to medication adherence.

RxEOB is a member of the National Council of Prescription Drug Programs (NCPDP) which works on standards for such things as prior authorizations and communications. Thus, while carving out a successful niche in a dysfunctional industry, it is helping to move the industry to a better place in data sharing.

About the author

Andy Oram

Andy Oram

Andy Oram writes and edits documents about many aspects of computing, ranging in size from blog postings to full-length books. Topics cover a wide range of computer technologies: data science and machine learning, programming languages, Web performance, Internet of Things, databases, free and open source software, and more. My editorial output at O'Reilly Media included the first books ever published commercially in the United States on Linux, the 2001 title Peer-to-Peer (frequently cited in connection with those technologies), and the 2007 title Beautiful Code. He is a regular correspondent on health IT and health policy for HealthcareScene.com. He also contributes to other publications about policy issues related to the Internet and about trends affecting technical innovation and its effects on society. Print publications where his work has appeared include The Economist, Communications of the ACM, Copyright World, the Journal of Information Technology & Politics, Vanguardia Dossier, and Internet Law and Business.

   

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