It is difficult to understate the challenges posed by the opioid crisis gripping the United States. While countless whitepapers, internal reports, and news articles have been written on the topic, we are only just beginning to come to terms with the true cost. This cost is borne out as broken families, shattered communities, and hundreds of thousands of lives lost too soon. The ongoing fallout of this crisis can be witnessed in compliance department meetings and, if no action is taken by leadership, in courtrooms.
In the past five years alone, settlements and fines have cost drug distributors and chain pharmacies over $55 billion, a figure only dwarfed by the immense human cost: 98,418 deaths from opiates and stimulants in 2021 and a 1186% increase in preventable opiate related deaths over 20 years. So immense is this cost that drug overdose has become the leading cause of injury mortality in the country—surpassing motor vehicle accidents, falls, poisoning, and all other injuries—businesses, medical professionals, and policy makers must urgently reevaluate their practices so that we may navigate through this dire situation. On the front line are pharmaceutical industry leaders who must take the initiative and proactively address these challenges to stem this systemic tragedy. And while we must never overlook the human impact of this epidemic, we must look to data to help develop solutions.
One area where data can help address the growing problem of opiate abuse is the controlled substance infrastructure that exists within the Unites States. From manufacturers to distributors and pharmacy chains, there are data flows that can be examined. However, there are challenges. Siloed data sources and disjointed data streams are common hurdles keeping compliance analysts from gaining a complete view of their dispensing activities. There are also few options available on the market for comprehensive monitoring and analysis of controlled substance dispensing. Options that do exist lack a clean and intuitive user experience, which creates barriers to effective analysis. Compliance analysts and management have been underserved by the marketplace, lacking a robust solution that allows them to monitor dispensing data, investigate suspicious orders, and scale their operation effectively. It is at the confluence of these factors, the devastation of the crisis itself and the obstacles obscuring the way forward, that sound data management practices be put in place.
It is with these challenges in mind that Drug Enforcement Analytics approached Verstand AI to build a completely new solution to address the hurdles faced by drug compliance analysts. This solution, the Controlled Substance Solutions (CSS) software platform, is built as a unified window into prescription dispensing data. It provides compliance analysts with comprehensive, on-demand analytics, vastly simplifying data acquisition, removes all manual processing, and creates repeatable workflows across a company’s complete universe of dispensing data.
There are several core principles guiding each feature of CSS, and which comprise the overall philosophy of the platform…
- Automation — allows analysts to create repeatable, hands-free workflows:
The Verstand team recognized early on that a significant hinderance to compliance analysts is the need to manually input and transform their prescription data before analysis. To address this, CSS is automated and minimizes human error, creating a repeatable workflow that can run without intervention. In doing so, CSS frees up analysts from time-consuming data preparation, and gives them more time to investigate suspicious orders.
- Scalability — performant architecture grows as the business grows:
In addition to the way data is handled, the timeliness of an analysis has a radical impact on compliance concerns as well. Whether a company is processing 1000 prescriptions or 1 billion, the tools used to analyze those prescriptions should be responsive and as little of an obstacle as possible. CSS is designed to be scalable, growing as the workload grows. The distributed cloud architecture is optimized for performance and flexibility, with the needs of drug compliance professionals in mind.
- Accessibility — on demand dashboards give analysts the tools to communicate their findings:
An analyst’s findings have the strongest impact when they are communicated well, and this communication starts with a thoughtfully designed interface. CSS has been designed with accessibility in mind, providing a suite of intuitive dashboards to help compliance analysts unlock the power hidden in prescription data. These dashboards are available on-demand and display data as soon as it is processed, no need to request a fresh data pull
- Security — a HIPAA compliant platform hardened against modern threats:
This trifecta of automation, scalability, and accessibility are all underpinned by our foundational principle: CSS is secure. Through internal and external audits, vulnerability and penetration tests have shown that the platform is HIPAA compliant and fully encrypts patient, prescription, and prescriber data in transit and at rest.
AI and technical advancements now make it possible to use supervised machine learning algorithms to identify suspicious dispensing activity and order monitoring, with training datasets informed by subject matter experts. Additionally, these techniques can be used to cluster prescribers and patients, revealing patterns of controlled substance prescriptions. Both features bolster the ability of CSS to provide compliance analysts both descriptive and predictive analytics in the form of “red flags,” strengthening the analyses that business users are already conducting. Because CSS is automated, scalable, accessible, and secure, these analyses are repeatable, meaning users can apply business logic to any entity across the sequence of dispensing events. As this crisis continues to evolve and new challenges emerge, it is crucial for organizations to continually assess their practices and the tools they use. In this situation, the CSS platform is a promising step forward. Recognizing the weight and importance of the epidemic, Verstand and DEA Analytics have worked to create a tool which enables organizations to enact change on a wide scale and, through the story of the data, alter the course of that greater human story.