E-government stalwart NIC Inc., is expanding its reach in an area of health care that’s at national crisis level, with the acquisition of technology assets and launch of a prescription drug monitoring platform that could help states fight the opioid epidemic.
The company announced on Aug. 1 the launch of RxGov, a cloud-based prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) platform, powered by Maryland-based Leap Orbit’s RxOrbit technology suite, which it recently acquired. NIC has stood up health-care portals for numerous states and has worked with as many as four states on PDMPs. It views the RxOrbit acquisition and the forging of ties with Leap Orbit as a way to deepen its existing offering level by drilling down on issues that have long confronted health-care officials treating prescription drug-related issues, its chief operating officer Robert Knapp said.
All 50 states have had PDMPs in place since 2017, when the final hold-out, Missouri, enacted its program via governor’s executive order. Cutting down on so-called “doctor shopping,” and enabling easier secure data access for a variety of professionals remain key issues for some states. Missouri’s director of health and senior services said last year that the state envisioned accomplishing both by scrutinizing private-sector data to identify doctors who could be over-prescribing.
NIC’s existing work on PDMPs dates to 2011, the company said; and includes partnerships with Montana, Utah and its “flagship, comprehensive ePDMP system” in Wisconsin. Knapp said the collaborations informed its view of existing technology and were a driver in the RxOrbit acquisition and the RxGov launch, which is hosted by Microsoft Azure and offers Platform as a Service (PaaS) deployment. Leap Orbit “assists healthcare institutions in developing and implementing technology” to transform how healthcare is delivered and paid for, the company said in a statement on its website.
RxGov takes aim at data visibility by offering “end-to-end data transparency” for health-care and government officials as well as first responders and pharmacies. It utilizes what NIC described in a news release as a “unique patient-matching algorithm” with machine learning to do a better job of identifying patients who may use nicknames or maiden names, to prevent doctor shopping. It also allows more seamless integration with agency electronic health records (EHR), without a log-in to a separate portal. NIC COO Robert Knapp said the company sees the power in “the combination of what we’ve done in our Wisconsin implementation and learned from our other states, as well as the platform from Leap Orbit.”
“States enacted (PDMP) systems very quickly and, at least from our perspective, they don’t have the functionality or the ease of use that we think RxGov will deliver, and so we think there’s an opportunity to capitalize on that in the marketplace,” Knapp said, adding that he expects funding matches recently announced by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to catalyze interest in the enhancement or replacement of state PDMP systems.
In a statement, NIC CEO Harry Herington said RxGov “leverages the best of the PDMP solutions NIC currently manages, plus the unique, cutting-edge functionality of the technology we acquired,” bringing “choice, flexibility and affordability” to officials charged with leading the monitoring of prescription drugs.
Leap Orbit partner Mrinal Bhasker called the RxOrbit acquisition to form RxGov “an exciting step” in the company’s vision of delivering PDMP data “where and when” lawmakers and health care professionals need it.
“We look forward to seeing NIC build upon this vision and bring a best-in-class solution to an industry that needs it. This is a critical component in combating the opioid epidemic in the U.S.,” Bhasker said in a statement. Leap Orbit’s involvement doesn’t end in the acquisition of the RxOrbit suite. That purchase was an “assets only” buy, NIC said, but noted it will now have an “ongoing relationship” with the company to “actively collaborate on future business development efforts and the product roadmap for RxGov.”
Leap Orbit tested aspects of its technology last year in a 90-day pilot with the Chesapeake Regional Information System for our Patients (CRISP), a health information exchange serving Maryland, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia. Lindsey Ferris, CRISP’s program director for health information exchange projects, said results were positive, with the company processing raw files from the state’s PDMP vendor Appriss to highlight discrepancies; and CRISP has since entered into contract with Leap Orbit.
CRISP uses a “subset” of Leap Orbit technology for “enhanced data transparency/completeness,” and in “the building of utilization, ‘compliance,’ and prescribing insight reports” for the PDMP and its users, Ferris said via email. She described the company’s team as responsive and easy to work with and called costs to use the tool “incredibly reasonable.”
“We have already used the daily reports to follow up on a number of anomalies that resulted in catching gaps in the data that would have otherwise gone unnoticed (or caught weeks to months later based on user feedback). I believe the utilization reporting being developed will have a direct impact on addressing the opioid crisis,” Ferris said.
Theo Douglas is a staff writer for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes covering municipal, county and state governments, business and breaking news. He has a Bachelor's degree in Newspaper Journalism and a Master's in History, both from California State University, Long Beach.