Real-Time Insights: Putting Business Intelligence to Work
An Interview With SoftWriters' Tim Tannert
The newest offering from SoftWriters, FrameworkBI, brings powerful business intelligence tools to FrameworkLTC users. In this interview Tim Tannert, R.Ph., vice president of operations, talks with ComputerTalk senior editor Will Lockwood about the insights pharmacies can gain into their operations by moving beyond simple reporting and into the real-time analysis a true business intelligence platform offers.
ComputerTalk: Tim, first give us your take on exactly what business intelligence is.
Tim Tannert: Business intelligence is the ability to take large amounts of data and transform it into meaningful, useful analytics that can drive decisions. The whole point is that within a pharmacy management system, we are tracking and logging countless data elements. For example, we know what each and every employee is doing during the day, from how long it takes to fill different prescriptions to the different types of prescriptions and transactions that employees are working on. And then there’s all the financial and billing data as well. A robust business intelligence platform enables you to take all this data, process it meaningfully, and display it in a way that allows decision makers to instantly see in real time what’s going on in the business and act on that information throughout the day to take advantage of an opportunity or mitigate a negative impact before it occurs. There’s this ability to identify patterns that’s the core of business intelligence, but of course you also have historical data that supports making informed decisions with confidence as well.
CT: And what specifically is the difference between between reporting and business intelligence?
Tannert: Reports show you historical data. They show you what happened in the past. A business intelligence platform offers you not just this kind of historical view, but it is also helps focus the user on what’s happening in real time in the pharmacy. This is what helps you make proactive decisions.
CT: So pharmacies have the data and are likely already getting historical views through reporting features. What do pharmacies need in order to step up to having true business intelligence capabilities?
Tannert: Well, the first thing is that you need to have a pharmacy operating system that allows you access to your data. FrameworkLTC’s open database structure is ideal for this. There are so many systems out there with proprietary databases and this limits user access to data. So that’s really the first challenge: to have a pharmacy system built on an open database structure, such as SQL. Then you need to have the tools and the expertise to be able to mine that data and display it in a useful manner. The big national and regional players have these capabilities for the most part, as do some bigger stand-alone players. But smaller pharmacies have not typically had the ability to produce and use business intelligence.
CT: So you saw demand from this group and decided to build a business intelligence platform yourself?
Tannert: What we saw was that while our customers have always had easy access to the data within FrameworkLTC, and that while the larger players were implementing business intelligence tools to leverage their open databases successfully, smaller pharmacies didn’t have the time and the resources to build the dashboards and the views they needed. We wanted to give all pharmacies an economical solution that goes far beyond just generating reports and giving a graph view. We’ve built in other elements that give pharmacies the power to disseminate information across departments as it is happening, empower supervisors or managers to see key data and metrics and be able to respond accordingly. We’ve also built in the ability to configure security at the active directory level. This means that you can give individual users and groups of users access to specified dashboard views and reports. For example, you can give your operations personnel access only to views relevant to them, and not to financial views.
We also have functionality that gives FrameworkBI users the ability to leverage the granular data available within FrameworkLTC to dig further within operations. For example, you can understand productivity not only by employee but by package type. This kind of detail can drive very specific metrics and allow you to compare staff as they work at the exact same tasks.
CT: What are some of the highlights of functionality that you are finding really engage users?
Tannert: The ability that I just referenced to look at staff productivity at a granular level is a big one. FrameworkBI users are finding that they now know much more than just how many prescriptions someone enters, but how many are new, how many are refills, and how many are profile only. Since there are different lengths of time associated with each of these, two staff members can have the same headline productivity number for the day, say 500 prescriptions entered, but one may have handled all refills and the other all new prescriptions. Business operators want to be able to drill down to this level of detail, as well as information such as when employees are performing specific workflow tasks during the day. What this does is allow them to identify and manage bottlenecks quickly and make sure staff is assigned where they will best support pharmacy processes.
Overall, FrameworkBI is allowing our users to understand exactly where they are and where they can take action that will have the biggest impact on operations and financial results, even taking into consideration outside factors such as short-cycle dispensing and MAC pricing compared by NDC and by payer. They gain the ability to see how these factors impact them and to make decisions to improve their operations based on the data. CT