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Measuring the Impact of an Open Online Prescribing Data Analysis Service on Clinical Practice: a Cohort Study in NHS England Data

By Alex J Walker, Helen J Curtis, Richard Croker, Sebastian CJ Bacon, Ben Goldacre

Posted 24 Apr 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/306415

Background: OpenPrescribing is a freely accessible service that enables any user to view and analyse NHS primary care prescribing data at the level of individual practices. This tool is intended to improve the quality, safety, and cost-effectiveness of prescribing. Objectives: We set out to measure the impact of OpenPrescribing being viewed on subsequent prescribing. Methods: Having pre-registered our protocol and code, we measured three different metrics of prescribing quality (mean percentile across 34 existing OpenPrescribing quality measures, available "price-per-unit" savings, and total "low-priority prescribing" spend) to see if they changed after CCG and practice pages were viewed. We also measured whether practices whose data were viewed on OpenPrescribing differed in prescribing, prior to viewing, to those who were not. We used fixed effects and between effects linear panel regression, to isolate change over time and differences between practices respectively. We adjusted for month of prescribing in the fixed effects model, to remove underlying trends in outcome measures. Results: We found a reduction in available price-per-unit savings for both practices and CCGs after their pages were viewed. The saving was greater at the practice level (-GBP40.42 per thousand patients per month, 95% confidence interval -54.04 to -26.01) than at CCG level (-GBP14.70 per thousand patients per month, 95% confidence interval -25.56 to -3.84). We estimate a total saving since launch of GBP243k at practice level and GBP1.47m at CCG level between the feature launch and end of follow-up (August to November 2017) among practices viewed. If the observed savings from practices viewed were extrapolated to all practices, this would generate GBP26.8m in annual savings for the NHS, approximately 20% of the total possible savings from this method. The other two measures were not different after CCGs/practices were viewed. Practices which were viewed had worse prescribing quality scores overall, prior to viewing. Conclusions: We found a clinically significant positive impact from use of OpenPrescribing, specifically for the class of savings opportunities that can only be identified by using this tool. We also show that it is possible to conduct a robust analysis of the impact of such an online service on clinical practice.

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