How technology helped target life-saving medicine to those most in need at the height of the COVID pandemic
Posted in News
Life-saving medicines were targeted to UK intensive care patients with the most need during the COVID-19 pandemic, thanks to ground breaking computer technology, senior Government and healthcare officials are being told.
A new report reveals how, at the height the first Covid wave, hospital critical care units were using the equivalent of a full year’s supply of one medicine, Noradrenaline (NAD), used to support patients on ventilators – in just six weeks.
But using the expertise of British pharmaceutical data specialists Rx-info, NHS procurement teams throughout the country were able to monitor NAD stocks on a daily basis, region-by-region and hospital by hospital using ‘real time’ data.
This data enabled stocks to be targeted at those trusts and primary care settings with the greatest demand to ensure vital care wasn’t compromised, not only of COVID sufferers, but those patients with other medical conditions.
Crucially, it also prevented stocks of the medicine running out, known as a ‘critical stock out’, which would have had ‘disastrous consequences for the most vulnerable patients in the system’, according to the report.
Entitled ‘An evaluation of how Rx-info software supports the NHS’ the report is a detailed study of the impact Rx-info’s suite of software products is having on the NHS’s medicine optimisation agenda.
It is a partnership that has also helped the NHS to establish itself as the only social healthcare system in the world to provide this level of detailed insight into hospital medicine usage.
Published in May and written by distinguished healthcare professional Richard Hey, copies have been circulated at the highest levels of Government, including Health Secretary Sajid Javid and Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty, as well as senior healthcare officials across the country. A copy has also been sent to Lord Carter of Coles, who used Rx-info’s invaluable data in his 2016 review of hospital productivity and efficiency.
In the evaluation report, Richard Hey outlines how each UK nation had already committed to funding Rx-Info’s ‘real time’ data on medicine stocks for every hospital trust in April 2019, to ensure an uninterrupted supply during the Brexit transition period.
But as the pandemic unfolded, causing worldwide disruption to medicine supply chains, it was this foresight that prevented supplies of vital medicines being affected by the ‘stock out’ situation. Using Rx-info’s Exend software package, procurement specialists were able to carry out regular, detailed monitoring to ensure vital patient care was never compromised.
The report reveals how, prior to the pandemic, the average consumption of NAD in England was 14.8 grams per day. At the peak of ventilated COVID patient numbers in January 2021, that figure was at 34.2 grams per day. It meant stock holdings of the drug were under 11 days – well below the 30 days required standard.
NAD was not the only critical medicine that required close monitoring of supplies during the response to COVID-19. A range of neuromuscular blocking agents, including Atracurium and Rocuronium, along with Fetanyl, had to be allocated carefully amid high demand pressures.
Carefully co-ordinated supply chain management across the NHS was also required as the pandemic gathered pace and demand rose for COVID treatment options, such as Azithromycin, Dexamethasone, Tocilizumab and Remdesivir.
Colin Richman, Managing Director of Rx-info, said that with high quantities of medicines being used at such a fast rate, it was critical the company’s software could keep track effectively – but he and his team were already well head of the curve.
“We were onto it as a company when we first became aware of community transmission of Coronavirus in China in January 2020 and we immediately focused our efforts on ensuring Exend would be able to respond effectively to the pandemic hitting the UK,” said Colin.
“We transformed timescales and Exend went from providing the capability to track 12-month forecasts of product usage to being able to process data that gives two-week forecasts, as well as daily snapshots. That really was a game changer in terms of optimising medicine management during the pandemic.”
Eminent healthcare professionals are full of praise for Rx-info’s systems, including Professor Liz Kay, a distinguished pharmacy consultant, who wrote the foreword for the evaluation report. In a health service career spanning nearly three decades, she spent 20 years as Clinical Director of Medicines Optimisation at Leeds Teaching Hospitals – a £1 billion Hospital Trust.
“We have often dreamt of a system of care with medicines where stock supply is integrated into one digital system. Medicines shortages and supplies of critical medicines would be seen in an integrated manner across the NHS, enabling data users to manage the supply chain more effectively,” said Prof Kay.
“Rx-info has a long track record of delivering valued services to the NHS and continues to be a responsive and agile partner, valued by the range of services users across the NHS at all levels.”
Based in Exeter, Rx-info was created in 2003. It worked, initially, with hospital chief pharmacists in the Midlands, with the aim of developing tools to analyse and understand medicine usage across hospitals.
By 2019, with each hospital trust spending 10 per cent of its annual budget on medicines – a combined UK hospital spend of £9.03 billion in 20/21 – the majority were already subscribing to Rx-info’s medicines intelligence software.
Working with national NHS bodies, the company developed Exend – an augmentation of its existing Define software – to report on a variety of important data, including stock levels, values, usage and remaining stock.
The information would be essential as the country prepared to leave the EU if there was to be effective monitoring of the six weeks ‘buffer stock’ the UK Government required pharmaceutical companies to hold. It was also important to stay on top of ordering patterns and demand.
As well as medicine stock management software, Rx-info has also developed Exend+ which builds on the existing Exend product and is designed to oversee NHS contract adherence performance. It can be used to highlight where contracts are not being fully optimised and savings can be made.
Click the image below to view the full report or follow this link.