Back in the late 1970’s and early 80’s quite a few pharmacy software companies were born. The challenge back then was to get pharmacy’s to pull away from hand and type written claims and move to computerization ---a task that proved to be quite difficult! As the years progressed more companies entered the market, which was a good thing for the end users, because as we create competition in any industry, it motivates. It ignites that fight or flight response and if you want to survive, you must compete. Compete not just on pricing, but on service, and most importantly, the technology that evolves at a very rapid pace.
Over time, pricing has come down on our side of the industry. Switching fees for processing rx's and even monthly fees have been reduced. We continue to see revenue sharing programs enter the market which can help lower overall costs to a pharmacy with regards to the technology that helps them run day to day.
When you rely on technology as a must have to run your business as we do today, beyond evolving and offering new features and efficiencies, it absolutely must be backed by stellar customer service. Your patients do not want to wait for service -- they can go to your local chain to receive that kind of service. Your ability to get rx's approved by 3rdparties, labels generated, PA’s handled in a quick manner, and offer your patients the ultimate in conveniences such as quick turn around and mobile applications are essential to survive. You can not afford to get a denial or some pop up on your screen and wait 30 mins for your software vendor to help you. Just like your patients, you need virtually immediate gratification.
Years back, the large majority of software vendors were independently owned just like the pharmacy’s they serviced. It was more than just a simple rx fill. As a customer, you had a relationship with the folks on the other end of the support line. You knew them, they knew you. Most times, you probably even knew the owner/President of the company as well, and could reach them if all else failed. Today, much like the old casino’s of Las Vegas, that has all changed. Today, its mostly big corporations. Its mergers and sell off’s. The large majority of pharmacy software companies today are owned by big drug wholesalers or private investment firms that flip these companies every few years. Inevitably one must ask, how long will those at the helm be there? If the visionaries that understood our industry depart the company, will it continue to evolve to keep you competitive with the rest of the market?
As these companies merge and grow larger, you have to ask yourself how you can expect the same level of service? Think about it – why do patients come to an independent pharmacy vs a chain? If your in this industry, you know the answer! When you look at who your most important relationships are that directly effect a small pharmacy, primary wholesaler and pharmacy software vendor are at the top of the list. Your choice of wholesalers has dwindled over the years and likely forced you to work with a huge company for your drugs and OTC items.
It seems this is slowly the way the software industry is headed as well – but don’t give up! Believe it or not, there are quite a few independently owned software vendors that have refused to sell off. Many have second generation family members involved or at the helm and have refused for over a decade to participate in the “big sell off”. If you find yourself in a predicament where your simply unhappy with your vendor, its seriously worth considering a change. A potential new partner may be in the cards if you plan to be in this for the long haul. The ability to have a voice, get custom program changes and get to the top of the food chain within your software vendor if all else fails can be crucial to your survival. The idea that a conversion is scary or will turn your business upside down is the old school way of thinking. Today conversions are part of everyday business. The ability to convert a busy store without interrupting the flow or creating patient inconveniences is commonplace, if done in a methodical way without rushing. Using the right project managers, the right training modules and the proper staff on site once the switch over occurs is key for a successful conversion.
If you feel like you’ve become a number to your pharmacy software vendor it may be time for a change. If you do not know who owns them from one year to the next, if you see a change in the voice you once had, a lack of custom program changes, or a wait time during normal business hours, these are tell tale signs that perhaps you may need to consider a change.