A disciplined approach to the cost of medication

IBM Cognos software improves information and service levels in the pharmacy of Northern Karelia Central Hospital

Published on 12-Dec-2011

Validated on 03 Jun 2013

"The reports have become more versatile and their quality has improved now that they can be presented visually and graphically." - Aarre Karvinen, data system administrator, Northern Karelia Information Technology Centre

Northern Karelia Central Hospital


Deployment country:

BA - Business Analytics, BA - Business Intelligence


Since the late 1980s, the Northern Karelia Information Technology Centre (PTTK) had been using a pharmacy application at the central hospital which it developed in-house. The application was used by both the hospital pharmacy’s personnel and the health centres in nearby communities that needed pharmacy operations.

Business need:
The main system used in the pharmacy of Northern Karelia Central Hospital was coming to the end of its useful life. The application had a number of shortcomings, such as a lack of reporting options, and it was difficult and expensive to analyse the existing data.

The pharmacy application was ported over to a Microsoft® Windows® environment and redesigned to run in a Web browser. The hospital also integrated the updated pharmacy application with IBM® Cognos® Business Intelligence, which provides reporting services.

The advantages include an increased level of service from the hospital pharmacy and improved manageability through the more detailed reports. The reporting solution includes features that enable earlier and more effective monitoring of pharmaceutical usage and costs. The new pharmacy system also serves community health centres in the region.

Case Study

Since the late 1980s, the Northern Karelia Information Technology Centre (PTTK) had been using a pharmacy application at the central hospital which it developed in-house. The application was used by both the hospital pharmacy’s personnel and the health centres in nearby communities that needed pharmacy operations.

“In 2002, our technology partner Tricons Oy put its medication ordering division on the Web. End users were able to order their medication via the Web application, and the orders were updated on the central servers. However, the hospital pharmacy’s own personnel continued to use the old pharmacy application,” said Aarre Karvinen, PTTK’s data system administrator.

Flexible transfer
For a long time, the pharmacy application operated in a green-screen environment, running on Alpha VMS servers. However, these servers were difficult to maintain and it was clear that they were also coming to the end of their useful service life.

“In the autumn of 2009, a decision was made to update the pharmacy system. Tricons Oy transferred the pharmacy application to Windows servers, and the application was redesigned to run in a browser. At the same time, a decision was made to add some new functionalities to the application and create a new version,” Karvinen explains.

The change made it possible to integrate the pharmacy application with a new IBM Cognos Business Intelligence solution, which brings a visual, user-friendly approach to pharmacy management and provides graphical reports. In practice, it is now possible to navigate directly from the Cognos reporting portal to the main application portal and vice versa, which enables a flexible approach to reporting.

The move from the old pharmacy application to the new ‘Tc Pharma’ solution was very easy, especially as people ordering medication had already been able to use both browser-based and command-line user interfaces in the old environment.

According to Karvinen, the final move proceeded with only one brief period of disruption for users. “The entire historical database of pharmacy operations in the hospital district was moved over to the new application during a single weekend without any breakdowns and without the people ordering medications noticing the change in the system,” Karvinen states.

He is especially satisfied that it was possible to transfer over 80 per cent of the existing code to the new environment, using the IBM Cognos solution to provide new features. The transfer was both successful and cost-effective, and the new technology will prolong the pharmacy application’s service life.

Improved quality of reports
At present, the IBM Cognos reporting solution primarily serves the hospital pharmacy’s personnel, but plans are in place to adopt it throughout the region’s communities as well. Health centres and other institutions have already moved over, one at a time, to using the modernised application in their medication orders.

“Although we were able to run single reports in the past, the new system provides access to truly modern reporting: the reports have become more versatile and their quality has improved now that they can be presented visually and graphically,” says Aarre Karvinen.

The IBM Cognos reporting solution is also able to collect data from many different data sources. Making use of the data that existed previously was difficult and costly, according to Karvinen, but data collection and analysis is now mostly automated by the IBM Cognos software.

Successful reporting without the assistance of the IT department
Tiina Koskinen, a qualified chemist at the hospital pharmacy, sees many practical benefits from the modernised solution.

“Now both the pharmacy application and the reporting tool are in the same package, and it’s not necessary to run the reports separately or ask the IT department to provide reports. All the data has been collected into one cube and, based on the data in the cube, we can produce reports and analyses. From the cube, we can choose the data we need and export it to formats such as spreadsheets.”

Koskinen uses the IBM Cognos software to monitor medication costs and the consumption of medications, which enables her to see whether medicine consumption is appropriate in terms of clinical practice.

“We get better data than before on waste, expired medications and stock value,” she concludes. “I am happy with the application, and it will remain successful if we can continue to gather the right kind of data from internal and external sources into the cube.”

About IBM Business Analytics
IBM Business Analytics software delivers actionable insights decision-makers need to achieve better business performance. IBM offers a comprehensive, unified portfolio of business intelligence, predictive and advanced analytics, financial performance and strategy management, governance, risk and compliance and analytic applications.

With IBM software, companies can spot trends, patterns and anomalies, compare “what if” scenarios, predict potential threats and opportunities, identify and manage key business risks and plan, budget and forecast resources. With these deep analytic capabilities our customers around the world can better understand, anticipate and shape business outcomes.

Products and services used

IBM products and services that were used in this case study.

Cognos Business Intelligence

Legal Information

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