During the decade-plus that Rebecca Attridge spent as faculty at a college of pharmacy, she also worked as a clinical pharmacy specialist in a medical ICU of a large county hospital. There, she experienced firsthand the COVID-19 pandemic, when her hospital expanded its medical ICU from two teams to four to handle the crush of stricken patients.
Throughout 2020, she said, it was a constant challenge to figure out how to treat infected patients. There was a lack of reliable, meaningful data about how to optimize care, how other providers were managing patients, and what effect selected treatments had on mortality rates or average length of stay. Particularly in the early months, teams were forced to extrapolate data from other types of viral infections or causes of respiratory failure.
“To have larger sample sizes, where you could see what others were doing, how they were doing it and how it affected outcomes, would have been extremely valuable for us,” she said. “As Agilum initially talked to me about the job, and about the CRCA P&T platform and what it could bring to healthcare, I immediately thought of how we could have used it during the whole last year treating our patients with COVID.”
Attridge recently moved from San Antonio to Colorado Springs, where she lives with her husband and their two children, ages 2 and 4. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, reading, traveling and being outdoors.
What will you be doing as the Clinical Director of Pharmacotherapy at Agilum?
One of my primary roles is helping clients optimize their use of the CRCA platform to answer clinical questions that will improve patient care at their institution. I will help them build some of the standard populations that will help them to optimize their data analytics for their institution and be able to compare their institution’s data to the real-world data or real-world evidence.
With pharmacotherapy, it essentially encompasses all of medicine. It’s a really broad term, but I’m going to start with either high-cost medications or high-risk populations, and issues like anticoagulation reversal. The focus will jibe with the priorities determined by national entities that focus on healthcare performance measures and improving value-based care. In addition, I will focus on initiatives that are measured at a hospital level to ensure safety, compliance or optimizing medication use.
You come from academia and have spent your career in teaching. What made you want to switch to pharmacy data analytics? Is that a big change for you?
It is a huge change, yes. It was both personal and professional, to be honest. My sister and my parents are in Colorado, so we were looking to move from Texas to be closer to family. When my husband received a job offer in Colorado, the wheels were set in motion.
One of my favorite parts of my former job and what I did was the educational role of teaching students and residents, providers, nurses, basically everybody that you interact with about data and how to optimize patient care. I absolutely loved teaching both students and residents, and I’ve loved being a clinical pharmacist in the medical ICU for the last 12 years. Another facet that I really loved was research. But a lot of what I did was small, observational research studies.
Both of those two things really translate well into what we will be doing with Agilum. I will still be interacting with pharmacy professionals and educating them on optimizing the CRCA platform to improve their patient outcomes. I’m excited that I’ll also get to continue doing research, but now rather than doing it at a single institutional level, I get to use this amazing database with millions of patient records to be able to do much larger observational research studies.
Do you see opportunities to make inroads into the academic side of pharmacy with CRCA P&T?
I hope so. I think the vision of both Wyley and Sam is to continue to build collaborative partnerships with pharmacy schools and residency programs to help expand the research that we’re doing. Also, we are already embarking on the health analytics fellowship program with Long Island University. I am excited to be involved in training the new fellow on the research platform and helping build the research agenda.
What did you find attractive about the opportunity at Agilum?
In all the studies that I’ve done before at my single institution, you were lucky to include 50 patients, 100 patients. Now we run a population on CRCA and you’re looking at thousands to sometimes even millions of patients. It really expands your ability to do some great data analytics and have a larger impact.
Obviously, the goal with doing the research and being involved in the fellowship training is ultimately, you’re trying to help refine this platform and help refine data analytics to get new information that will then improve patient care.
Patient care is still at the root of all of it. I feel like that’s one of the biggest things I’ve learned over my time in clinical practice. I’ve been at the bedside involved in patient care, but I think initially, I didn’t realize how much each of us has a responsibility to be an advocate for the patient. I learned a lot from the nurses I’ve worked with in terms of being an advocate for each patient you care for. You’re always focused on the person in front of you and doing what you can for that person. But switching over to something like this, where you’re looking at a much larger group, you have the ability to affect many more patients and be essentially a larger voice and a stronger patient advocate. That’s the final goal.