A network engineer at the Medical University of South Carolina co-founded a software business that is helping to solve a multimillion-dollar problem for the hospital system while also spinning off a company that is selling its technology to other hospitals.
Jonathan Yantis, CEO of AscendRx, said he started out working in information technology for MUSC. At the urging of the system's chief information officer, Yantis set out to help MUSC manage its purchases of pharmaceuticals. With the costs of drugs on the rise and a market constantly in flux, Yantis said the health system lacked effective tools to navigate options and tamp down spending.
The ensuing software saved MUSC millions of dollars in its first year. The technology has also helped make its pharmacists more effective.
“With AscendRx, we have been able to monitor and respond to volatility in the market in a way we have never been able to before,” Jason Mills, MUSC Pharmacy supply chain manager, said in a statement.
Yantis began developing the software about two years ago. He worked with MUSC's technology transfer office to found AscendRx as a spinoff company this summer. The firm established an office in downtown Charleston on Meeting Street.
In general, hospitals tend to spend roughly 10 percent of their operating costs on drugs, Yantis said.
AscendRx is a web browser-based application that enables medical supply chain managers to pinpoint the best deals on pharmaceuticals in real time. Yantis compared the technology to TurboTax. In the same way that the tax filing program makes it easy for customers to manage their filings, AscendRx is simplifying the pharmacy supply chain.
"I was able to take my love for complicated problems and apply it to an area of need for the hospital," Yantis said.
He said the software uses a number of sophisticated algorithms, pulling data from different sources and simplifying the information for users. Yantis said his company is unconnected to any special interests and the software is meant to be used as an objective tool.
Before AscendRx, supply chain managers would have to spend hours navigating spreadsheets.
Hospitals are feeling the effects of rising pharmaceutical costs just the same as average Americans. Researchers at the University of Chicago wrote recently that hospitals' drug spending increased about 19 percent between 2015 and 2017.
"When hospital pharmacies can keep their costs lower, those savings are passed on to patients and their families so at the end of the day, this platform helps us all save more money," Yantis said.