UM Team Places Third in Pharmacy Quality Alliance Challenge

Students devised business proposal to reduce opioid abuse

Siddhi Korgaonkar

OXFORD, Miss. – A team from the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy placed third out of 22 teams in the Pharmacy Quality Alliance’s Healthcare Quality Innovation Challenge last month in Baltimore.

The four-student group consisted of third-year student pharmacists Mariah Cole, of Meridian; and Anna Crider, of Brentwood, Tennessee; as well as pharmacy administration graduate students Sushmitha Inguva, of Hyderabad, India; and Siddhi Korgaonkar, of Mumbai, India.

“I was very proud of our group and thought they did a superb job of presenting their proposal and answering questions from the judges,” said Ben Banahan, director of the Center for Pharmaceutical Marketing and Management and professor of pharmacy administration. “Though we might be slightly biased, the UM faculty in attendance truly thought our team would get first place.

“They provided a great practical approach for improving access without developing a costly competitive system that was based on electronic health record systems.”

The team was tasked with submitting a business summary around the prompt “Addressing Potentially Unsafe Opioid Use.” The students’ goal was to develop a plan that alleviated the time-consuming effort for health care professionals to manually track and monitor a patient’s history of prescription opioid use.

Anna Crider

The result was “Interactive Coordination in Healthcare Promoting Safe and Effective Prescription Drug Use” or “iCHOOSE Rx.” The proposed computer/phone application would give providers an easier and more useful method to understand a patient’s history and manage their pain effectively.

“Addiction is a serious issue in the United States, which is costly to our health system,” Cole said. “As a future pharmacist, I feel compelled to monitor for potential medication abuse.

Mariah Cole

“In addition, pharmacists play a great role in dealing with the current opioid crisis, so I was intrigued to improve prescription monitoring for all health care professionals.”

With their proposal submitted, the team prepared a presentation for judges at the PQA annual convention. Inguva said the team felt comfortable onstage.

“We were nervous about answering the judges’ questions since we did not know what to expect,” she said. “In order to prepare for it, the team conducted mock sessions where members would speculate potential questions, and then everyone would discuss how to tackle them.”

Sushmitha Inguva

The team originated from collaboration between the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy and International Society for Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research student chapters. The challenge provided an opportunity to learn from each other and spread awareness about each professional organization.

“Working with a team this size was a wonderful learning experience,” Crider said. “Being from different educational backgrounds, we each brought an aspect of creativity and knowledge to the proposal to make it thorough and applicable in the real world.

“This experience taught me how critical it is for each person working in a group to have different interests and education because it helps broaden the scope of conversation and interaction.”