|An Interesting Year||| Print ||
We started the year on a sunny note, and then that big financial cloud moved in. As of the end of October, the S&P 500 was off close to 33% for the year. Layoffs abound in the financial sector, and the ripple effect is beginning to take more people in other sectors with it. I read an interesting article in The New Yorker magazine (the November 10 issue) that relates the high foreclosure rate to “medical problems and healthcare expenses.” Since a person’s healthcare takes priority over mortgage payments, one can understand how this can have an effect. However, I have also read that people are cutting back on their medications and putting off doctor visits to save money.
These are not the best of times. The economy is contracting. The silver lining is that the local small banks are beginning to take on new meaning. What’s at play here is local knowledge. Knowing the businesses in the community allows these banks to provide a more loan-friendly environment. This bodes well for independent pharmacies that have established good credit with the local bank.
But there is more incentive than ever to run a lean operation. Technology can help. It can also open the way to exploit new business opportunities. Our cover story in this issue spotlights two pharmacies that have done just this.
There is also an article that shows how one pharmacy — a regional chain in this case — is using countertop-counting automation to augment robotic systems. While patient safety is front and center as the reason, the efficiencies gained allow the pharmacies to do more with the same staff.
Another article is on software as a service. What makes this appealing is that pharmacies are not faced with an investment cost for a computer system or all the responsibilities that go along with ownership. Considering the current state of the economy, the timing for software as a service couldn’t be better.
And government regulations can drive demand for technology. The IRS reg dealing with flexible-spending accounts that goes into effect January 1 is an example. This has sparked new interest in point-of-sale (POS) systems. As a result, companies offering these systems are seeing record sales. Having a POS system that contains the IRS-compliant product file and the software that screens the purchases against this file, and then charges the FSA debit card for only the approved items, is a way of retaining customers. Since these are substantiated transactions at the point of sale, FSA cardholders do not have to submit receipts to show that these were FSA-compliant purchases — it becomes a very consumer-friendly transaction.
By the way, this issue concludes our 28th year of publishing ComputerTalk. Our January issue will take a look at where we are headed in 2009. This is our annual “Market Outlook” issue that gets the word on industry trends from vendors. CT
Bill Lockwood is the publisher of ComputerTalk.