University of Sydney develops software to streamline the pharmaceutical procurement process for Australian hospitals

A software program that can significantly save on the amount spent by Australia’s hospitals, which was currently estimated at A$ 3 billion a year, was developed by the University of Sydney. Not only that, but the software can also free up hospital staff for activities that are more closely related to patient care.

According to the announcement made by the University of Sydney, the ground-breaking software streamlines the pharmaceutical purchasing process by replacing the laborious and time consuming process of selecting the most cost effective pharmaceuticals.

Dr Aldo Saavedra, a Senior Research Scientist with the University’s Faculty of Health Sciences, and Dr Erick Li, a Senior Lecturer in the Business School’s Discipline of Business Analytics developed the software together with Sydney’s Westmead Hospital.

The software will remove the manual process of comparing spreadsheet information on thousands of products with prices that sometimes vary on a monthly basis.

Westmead Hospital Head Pharmacist Dr David Ng explained that there are several thousand lines of pharmaceuticals that are procured and managed across Westmead, and pricing for each is influenced by market dynamics such as competition, patent expiry, supply chain and government policy.

He added that given the number of product lines and pricing variances, they needed a decision support tool, especially since the objective of their pharmaceutical procurement is to guarantee that essential medicines are always available at the most cost-effective price.

Because of the established business, technical and analytical expertise of the University of Sydney, as well as its commitment to the development of the Westmead precinct, Dr Ng and his team approached the University.

Looking into Westmead’s manual process, Dr Saavedra and Dr Li discovered a process made highly complex by constantly changing supplier discounts, government subsidies and competing branded and generic products.

Dr Li explained how their system is able to organise all the information from the wholesaler’s price books, quickly run the data for a particular medication and determine the lowest price on the market. More importantly, he added, the system can take into consideration the complexity of the rebate contracts. One estimate puts Westmead’s cost savings at nearly 5%.

The University team sees the new system as an example of how data can be better utilised in hospitals for the benefit of patients and staff. Dr Saavedra explained that this project was a flagship for showing how data can be used to improve something very simple as choosing the best medication. A procurement officer literally sitting there for hours and comparing excel spreadsheets would be very laborious.

Dr Saavedra and Dr Li said that with some modification, their procurement software could be installed in any hospital in the country potentially saving Australian taxpayers many millions of dollars.

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