Data analysis made easy: PBM provider improves its approach to streamlining customer queries – Data warehousing: case history

Data analysis made easy: PBM provider improves its approach to streamlining customer queries – Data warehousing: case history – Pharmaceutical Benefit Management services

Hidden in data collected from prescription drug claims are purchasing patterns that can help state agencies and insurance providers cut costs and improve spending efficiency. But collecting information from thousands of claims, compiling reports and conducting accurate analysis is a daunting task that many organizations choose to outsource to specialists in data collection and analysis.

GHS Data Management, a 24-year-old company based in Maine, provides pharmacy benefit management services. GHS collects pharmaceutical data for MaineCare, Maine’s Medicaid program, and for other private sector companies.

Each time a pharmacist enters patient information into a PC, GHS collects information on the claimant, drug pricing, co-pays, prior authorization, pharmacy billing and more. GHS analysts then compile that data into comprehensive reports to help clients identify potential problem spending patterns as well as ways to reduce spending.

Streamlined Analyses

Last year, GHS’ analyst team was short on resources–namely, employee time. Despite providing regular, in-depth reports to each customer, analysts were dealing with a rising number of requests for additional data reports. For each request, the analyst spent several hours producing a report with SQL Server tools, MS Access, Excel and Crystal Reports. According to Jason Skeffington, a GHS project manager, the high volume of query requests kept the team from conducting important, high-end analysis.

“Every time our customers needed to know something, they picked up the phone and we had to run a query and create a new report,” he says. “Even when they needed the most basic information, we had to manually print and mail a report or convert the report to an electronic form they could receive through e-mail. It was an inefficient and time-consuming process.”

The GHS team wanted to find a way to ease the number of customer query requests and the amount of time they spent fulfilling requests. They decided to build a robust data warehouse with improved reporting capabilities so that customers could create reports online and analyze the reports on their own.

To achieve the goal, the team constructed an OLAP database using MS Analysis Server, but they still needed to find a Web-based analysis and reporting interface that customers would be able to use easily. The tool had to be simple enough that nonanalysts could build a report without the help of GHS staff, but that also had the capability to handle advanced queries from internal analysts and power users for more advanced analysis.

Bidding Opportunity

During this process, the Maine Medicaid contract came up for bid. MaineCare’s RFP required bidders to provide a quick, user-friendly interface that would let users search and compile simple reports online.

“With our data warehouse developed and our Web capabilities in place, we were ready to implement the right tool for the job,” says Skeffington.

He and other members of his team reviewed several products, but it was Databeacon Inc., an Ontario-based data publishing, analysis and reporting software company, that seemed to be the closest fit for them. Databeacon’s software allows users to publish interactive data reports online, and it connected easily to most industry-standard databases. The software is Java-based, and Skeffington liked its ability to operate across several hardware platforms and with various scripting languages. It was also affordable.

The design of Databeacon allows Skeffington to implement from a stand-alone to an n-tier structure without hassle or complication. “With other products,” he says, “I found that I was locked in to their preferred design, and it could be very costly if we have to add to our hardware infrastructure.”

The user interface, called the Databeacon Insight Viewer, loads from a Web server into the user’s browser after clicking on a link. The server extracts information from a database, highly compresses it into a multidimensional OLAP data format called a cube, and pushes that compressed cube into the user’s browser along with the Insight Viewer for local processing on the user’s PC. The Insight Viewer also allows users to access the most recent data by automatically recognizing and implementing changes in the database, including data hierarchies.

Achieving Objectives

Skeffington and his team moved forth. After a smooth testing period, GHS decided to include Databeacon technology in its bid for renewal of the MaineCare contract. Skeffington says he felt confident that the software would help GHS win the client’s approval, but he wasn’t initially prepared for their overwhelming response.

“Once they saw how intuitive the interface was and how fast the application worked, they just dove right in and started using it. They were doing real queries on real data. We just sat back and let them. I think they were expecting a Flash demo or a PowerPoint presentation, so when we walked in with their actual data in a Databeacon cube, they were impressed,” says Skeffington. MaineCare renewed its contract.

The software produced another benefit that neither GHS nor its client expected: cost reduction. MaineCare saved the cost of paying for analysts’ time by developing simple reports on its own. GHS saved the expense of hiring additional analysts to deal with the increasing requests.

Since implementing the software, Skeffington says the number of customer query requests that require analyst intervention has fallen dramatically, and this has significantly eased the workload of the analyst team. GHS now uses the tool to improve its relationship with other existing partners and to attract new clients. Skeffington estimates that the product has paid for itself four times over in the first year of use based on time and labor savings.

“Our customers hardly talk to me anymore–they just go online. The software has put data right in my customers’ hands with the Insight Viewer, so they don’t have to call us so often. Even when they do call us, we get the information quickly by using the program ourselves.”

Also, GHS’ medical and pharmacy directors can now view and analyze customer data for potential problem spending or prescribing patterns. Once these patterns are identified, the analyst team can conduct deeper analysis and make recommendations to customers. Skeffington says the product has helped GHS to enhance its Web presence, which enhances current customer relationships and strengthens the organization’s marketing efforts to gain new business.


Jason Skeffington

Project Manager

GHS Data Management

August, ME


Databeacon Insight Viewer

Databeacon Inc.

Ottawa, ON

For more information about products from Databeacon,

COPYRIGHT 2003 Nelson Publishing

COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group