RainTree Marshals Community for Data Fight Against Cancer

by   |   August 19, 2014 5:30 am   |   0 Comments

In this era of tight budgets, data analytics is a luxury many businesses simply can’t afford. This is doubly true for specialized doctors’ practices, which often are squeezed for every penny.

RainTree Oncology Services, a small and specialized data analytics company, was formed in 2011 to serve this underserved market. RainTree set out to do two important things: help community oncology organizations (COOs) – those local doctors’ practices specializing in the treatment of cancer – stay in business and help both the COOs and big pharma develop and deliver better treatments for patients.

RainTree currently manages information on 336,000 patients in the United States from 48 treatment centers.

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RainTree is helping COOs stay in business through the tried-and-true practice of using a group purchasing organization (GPO) that allows member COOs to get cancer drugs at a discount. Now, instead of subsidizing the dispensing of medications from their pharmacies by raising prices on the clinical side, doctors can keep costs down while still managing a profit.

“The environment was such that it was very difficult to run that small business with any kind of robustness,” said Scott Skellenger, RainTree’s Vice President and Chief Information Officer, at a recent Information Builder’s event in Orlando.

The other side of RainTree’s business involves data, and lots of it. Through its newly-launched OncoExplorer product, the company is building an information bridge between how cancer is treated in the real world and the big pharmaceutical companies that develop drugs to combat the disease.

RainTree does this by installing an IT appliance at its member COOs that collects data from the practice’s electronic medical records (EMR), pharmacy management system, and practice management systems that track billing, appointments, and claims data. RainTree pays COOs for this data, adding another valuable revenue stream to the medical practices.

RainTree then combines and aggregates that data, cleanses it, aligns it, and builds a master patient index. It puts it all that information into a data warehouse for easy slicing and dicing. RainTree also can tag the many different interactions a patient has with the healthcare system. As a result, information like therapeutics prescribed, tests run, the outcomes of those tests, which drugs are being taken in which combinations and in what order, the efficacy of those drugs, and so on, can be marked with an identifier that ties all these records and data points back to an individual. Individual patients are not named, but their personally identifiable information is held in RainTree’s encrypted servers.

The company then shares this information with its COOs in order to help them run their businesses better. It sells the information to big pharma and other interested verticals, such as genomics companies looking for specific bio-markers, which then use the data sets to develop more effective drugs. Pharmaceutical companies’ poor visibility into how patients are actually taking their products is one of the reasons they are so interested in what RainTree has to offer. A demo that RainTree presented in April attracted 27 companies.

“For the first time, in context, you can see the patient journey,” said Skellenger. “The pharma companies want that because what they want to see is how many people, for example, drop off therapy. When they dig into the data, they’re trying to understand how their product is being used in real life.”

Some doctors are forced to stop prescribing certain medications, for example, because it is taking too long to get paid for the drugs. “It sounds harsh, but it’s a reality,” said Skellenger.

With OncoExplorer, pharmaceutical companies can see these trends for the first time directly from the practices that treat most of the cancer patients in the country.

The next step is to enter the prescriptive analytics space – competing against IBM’s Watson – to help oncologists make better treatment decisions based on their data.

“We have a clear vision for that,” said Skellenger, “but that’s something that will be built tight-knit with the care pathways and treatment best practices that are out there today.”

Now a freelance writer, in a former, not-too-distant life, Allen Bernard was the managing editor of CIOUpdate.com and numerous other technology websites. Since 2000, Allen has written, assigned, and edited thousands of articles that focus on intersection of technology and business. As well as content marketing and PR, he now writes for Data Informed and other high-quality publications. Originally from the Boston area, Allen now calls Columbus, Ohio, home. He can be reached at 614-937-2316 or abernie182@gmail.com. Please follow him on Twitter at @allen_bernard1, on Google+ or on Linked In.


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