Over the last 3 years, I have come across several initiatives from life sciences companies to revisit their Drug Safety system strategy, in line with the trend of evaluating their options with other IT systems, on whether they should continue to host and support these systems on-premise or move to cloud. We all have witnessed a major shift towards Cloud Computing and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model, Drug Safety is no exception. The challenge with this strategy is that it needs a dramatic shift in the traditional thinking that prevails in the industry in terms of people, process and technology. What I mean by that is:
- People should understand that once the system is hosted by an external partner, the way the business and IT teams within the sponsor organization interact with the support teams will change dramatically. For example, they may not be able to pick up the phone and call a Mr. John Doe at the last minute to get their product/license configured in the safety system to support the launch of a new study.
- Processes, both business and support, should be changed to reflect the new model and ensure seamless transition and steady state support to ensure the business operations are not impacted. For example, if you are engaging a new partner in a new market to support your clinical study you have to engage the service provider so you plan and support the onboarding process in time.
- Technology should be brought in to accommodate such change and ensure business continuity, system performance and transparency in service delivery. For example, tools should be made available to not only monitor the performance of the system and process but also to continually review and improve the performance.
You may argue that these are required for any transition from “On-Premise” model to “SaaS/Hosted” model. My answer would be YES, but the regulated clinical research world adds additional emphasis on getting it right the first time and ensuring that every aspect is validated and in compliance with the regulatory requirements of various agencies across the sponsors markets. I want to list some key items that would be useful to sponsors, in evaluating Drug Safety System hosting partners.
- Domain Expertise: The first and foremost criterion is “how much does the partner know about Drug Safety?” You cannot go to run-of-the-mill hosting partner and expect them to understand your business processes and host the system in compliance with the regulatory requirements
- Hosting Expertise: Have they hosted a safety system for any other customers? If not, have they hosted a system that requires validation and should comply with regulatory requirements? Will it be a “Multi-tenant” environment? If so, do they have experience facing audit for such a setup as my data may be hosted along with my competitors? How do they ensure Data Privacy and Security? Does their system support Single Sign On (SSO) or do my users need a separate login to access the system, which could be disruptive to business
- Hosting Location: Where are they hosting my data? Some countries do not allow safety data of patients to reside on foreign soil for obvious reasons. What arrangements do they have from a Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity perspective? How do they staff in case disaster strikes the main site? Do they move people or do they maintain minimal staff to support the secondary site?
- A-Team: Do they have the right people? If so, what are their qualifications? In my experience many sponsors look for references of the partner. That may not always be the right way to evaluate the partner because the staff that delivered the project for that referenced customer may not be with the organization anymore. Most service providers in drug safety space have small teams. Not all of them have bench strength to fully staff the engagement. However, it is critical that they have senior staff to seed the team and bring on additional staff as needed
- Processes: Do they have SOPs and WIs to get the new environment up and running faster but with little risk? Can they also provide case processing and aggregate reporting services? If so, what processes do they have in place? Do those processes meet our requirements? If not, how do we harmonize the processes?
- Total Cost of Ownership (TCO): It is essential that a decision of this criticality is financially viable too. Also, it is required to have a long term view of the cost associated with such a move. It is highly impractical to change your decision in short intervals of 1 to 2 years. You should be committed to a term of 3 to 5 years. If you are, then what is the total cost of ownership for such a commitment? Is the vendor transparent about all the hidden costs? If there would be increase in pricing, how predictable is it? Can we lock-in to a price now for 5 years? What discounts are offered? Can we tie in the payments to service performance? How about service credits?
- Viability: It is critical that the partner has a viable business model. Not just to fulfill your current needs, but your future needs as well. If you expand to new markets, would the partner have ability to support such a change? Do they have teams spread across multiple geographies?
- Cultural Fitment: You need a partner that fits, not just from a strategic and operational perspective but also from a cultural perspective. This arrangement is long term and both parties should look at it as a win-win proposition and should be committed to make it a success.
- Executive Commitment: Last but not least is the commitment the partner has to this business and more importantly to your service. What is their governance model? How does the escalation process work? Where is the executive team located? Are they a phone call away, if disaster strikes?
These are some of the aspects that I thought would be useful for some sponsors and vendors alike, to consider when selecting a partner for a drug safety hosted service. As always, appreciate your feedback and comments.
Jumpstart your PV Operational Efficiency Improvement Initiatives through Oracle Pharmacovigilance Operational Analytics (OPVA)
I attended Oracle Open World (OOW) recently during the week of Oct 2nd. I got a sneak peek of the newly released Oracle Pharmacovigilance Operational Analytics tool. This tool is intended to provide a jumpstart to the efforts of Safety & Pharmacovigilance departments of MAHs and CROs in being able to monitor the operational performance of the organizations and identify the bottlenecks. The key point to note is that this tool provides only the Operational Analytics and doesn’t include the Scientific Analytics.
Some of the Key business benefits it will deliver include:
- Insights into the case processing operations
- Measure compliance and productivity across the organization
- Provide ability to monitor the KPIs and metrics through dashboards in real time
- Provide ability to drill down to identify the bottlenecks in the process
- Improve productivity and save costs across the organization
- Improve compliance and enable better patient safety
From IT Systems perspective:
- Single repository of operational safety data
- Star schemas that could be populated with data from internal and external sources
- Predefined reports, KPIs, Metrics and Dashboards
- Ability to customize and extend the dashboards and reports
- Ability to view current as well as historical operational performance of organization and individuals
- Out-of-the-box integration with Oracle’s Argus Safety
- Built using Oracle BI (OBIEE) which gives ability to view dashboards on web as well as on mobile devices (iPhones and iPads)
Some of the key dashboards that are provided out-of-the-box:
- Case processing history in terms of volumes, compliance and repetition
- Case processing management in terms of volumes, compliance and workflow state SLA management
- Personal user dashboards with individual’s case management and case history,
Some of the reports include:
- Completed case volume overview and trends
- Pending case volume overview and trends
- Case version line listings
- Individual case workload reports and line listings
OPVA is compatible with Argus Safety 6.0.2 and Argus Safety 7.0.
One of the key uses of OPVA for organizations that want to define additional metrics, KPIs, dashboards and reports is the start schema that is provided with the product. It comes with a set of predefined dimensions and facts that can be leveraged to speed up the process of developing the additional custom dashboards, KPIs, Metrics and Reports.
Dimensions provided by the OPVA schema are:
- List of Values
- User Group
- Case Processing Site
- Enterprise (in a multi-tenant scenario more relevant for CROs)
The pre-built facts into the OPVA data mart are:
- Case Version History
- Case Routing History
- Case Workflow History and
- Pending Cases
I think this is a very good addition by Oracle to its stable of products and compliments the existing tools quite well. This is also a very good tool for customers wanting to jumpstart their efforts to measuring their safety operations (aka Case Processing), identifying the bottlenecks in terms of compliance and productivity and rein in costs through improvement plans to enhance these aspects.
Oracle released their latest version of Argus Safety Suite 7.0. The biggest highlight of this release is the “Multi-Tenancy”. This comes very handy for organizations that manage patient safety on behalf of more than one sponsor. This is being dubbed as a ‘CRO Release‘ for obvious reasons. However, another set of service providers that could benefit from this is the Technology Service Providers (TSPs).
Leveraging Argus 7.0, CRO and TSP organizations can host one instance of the application (not considering the various development, test, validation, training environments required) and provide technology and functional services to multiple organizations. The software comes with all bells and whistles required for it to be regulatory compliant as well as keeps the data clean so there is no compromise of patient information and critical safety information. The biggest advantage is the feature set that will enable the CRO/TSP organizations manage the configuration required for each organization separate but at the same time enable them to be able to jump start a new organization’s configuration by leveraging configuration settings of an existing organization.
The diagram depicts a simplistic view of how this works. Please note that it does not include all the components of Argus system as well as the network elements required to ensure connectivity between the CRO/TSP to the sponsor organization. Essentially multiple sponsors will be able to connect to the Argus application through a custom/standard portal setup by the CRO/TSP.
In case of CROs, their internal staff viz. Admins, Data Entry, QA, and Medical Review personnel (depending on requested workflow by the sponsor or the CROs SOPs) would manage the cases. In case of TSPs, the Implementation (installation, configuration and support) and Hosting services could be provided by them while the sponsor manages the case processing bit.
Other enhancements to Argus Insight, Argus J and another new tool to manage Operational Analytics are slated for release throughout this year. In terms of upgrades, it comes with provision to upgrade from 6.0 and 6.0.1. However, for customers on prior versions, they would have to follow the step-by-step upgrade path till version 6 and then upgrade to 7.0.
If you need more details please write to me.