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Pharmacy Management

Pharmacy Management

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hallenges for pharmacy chains: Pharmacy chains competing for growth in the face of significant competitive challenges face a dire need to improve productivity and revenue. To address these challenges, the need is for streamlined operations aligned with their business objectives. Selecting the right Rx workflow system can provide a definitive competitive edge in the marketplace.


Overview

To enable operational efficiency across the chain, managements need to deploy the right-fit pharmacy management system. With adequate due diligence and the right implementation approach, these systems can help with

  1. Addressing the shortage of pharmacists by streamlining and automating the workflow process steps. The system should aim for efficient filling of prescriptions while freeing up pharmacists for customer consultation and allowing technicians time for value-added activities
  2. Streamlining operations through data sharing across store locations allowing patients to order / refill their Rx from any store. Significant improvement is possible in this area with workload balancing and remote / distributed operations
  3. Segmentation of work process for efficient division of labor
  4. Systemic data checks to scan impact of drug combinations or drug allergies to ensure patient wellness and provide counseling to improve relationships with the Patient.
  5. Enhancing customer satisfaction levels and repeat business through timely and consistent customer service

Key Decision Factors

Quality Excellence believes that retail pharmacies need to consider the economics and their commitment to any option prior to undertaking a pharmacy management system initiative. Equally important is conducting a thorough due diligence exercise to identify challenges and strategies for their mitigation.

Economics

A custom-built pharmacy application for a mid-large pharmacy chain can start with an up front cost upwards of $20 million. While the cost would rule out this option for smaller and regional chains, they could consider products offered on an ASP platform. Although the ASP model in pharmacy systems is still in its infancy, the entry of a large vendor could help jump start and stabilize it in the future.

Long-term commitment

On the custom-build route, it is not just the up front investments that count. Any pharmacy embarking on this journey must think like a software product vendor. Unless it can commit to nurturing its product for a span of 5-10 years, this option could quickly succumb to the same issues surrounding other products and head for failure.

Due diligence

Above all, it is detailed due diligence of not merely evaluating the options but also in developing the road map that will make the difference. Specifically:

If a pharmacy has invested in a product or the source code but is not very pleased with the outcome, it should analyze if the problem lies with the foundation, the peripherals or the execution.

Foundational problems are bad news, but otherwise there is typically enough good to move forward although success may not be guaranteed. The big problems usually pertain to:

  1. Scalability / Architecture / Performance - While this could mean a problem is "foundational" in nature, it can also be traced to 'Big Bang' implementations. In such cases, taking a step back and evaluating a phased approach can help.
  2. Functionality and change management - Although this problem is not foundational from a system perspective, business can find that rolling out a system that is "radically different" from the existing one to be an insurmountable hurdle. A few factors to consider in this case:
    1. If technicians could master an old character-based system to record productivity levels, what could be the worst case intermittent productivity drop with an intuitive GUI-based system which is better navigable, and possibly smoother? Instead of gut feel an actual usability test and hard numbers would provide reliable pointers.
    2. If the pain involved in transition is too high, creating a fa├žade (a layer of screens) mirroring the existing UIs (but with a better and more robust platform) could be an interim option. This additional effort could also be phased. Futuristic functionality can be a key dissent factor and some of these features could be pulled out to be plugged in at a later date when they are truly required.
    3. Inability to support the system in the future - This is often due to a burn-out in achieving the first release or lack of planning to take it further. Considering that these decisions involve millions of dollars, it is logical to plan for at least a few years ahead with a strong organizational and governance model to sustain the initiative.

    On the other hand, If the pharmacy is weighing its options, it should:

    1. Undertake a detailed due diligence exercise - Involve internal stakeholders as well as vendors in the exercise. If an option appears attractive, follow up with a detailed conference room pilot by testing more of exception scenarios than smooth flow cases Build a robust roadmap for all options generated for a minimum of 5 years
    2. Include necessary legal clauses around SLAs and possibilities of the vendor rendering control of the product in the event of missing the SLAs or undergoing merger / acquisitions / delinquency.

Conclusion

Choosing the right pharmacy system has been one of the tougher questions faced by pharmacies. However, successes in this area show that it is a critical decision that needs to be evaluated and planned for carefully with a 5-10 year roadmap in view. Given the multitude of considerations and individual operational nuances, the choice often is specific to each pharmacy chain. Retailers will need to evaluate their specific environment for opportunities, constraints and their long term vision before deciding whether an approach is aligned with their specific objectives.

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