|Listening to Customers and Keeping It Simple||| Print ||
An interview with Micro Merchant Systems founder Akbar Merchant.
ComputerTalk: Tell us how you started the company.
Akbar Merchant: In the mid-to-late 1980s, when I was in college, I worked at a pharmacy, and from using the pharmacy system there I thought I could do a better job. The system then required a lot of repetitive data entry and was not very user-friendly. Since I had the computer science background, I decided to create a more user-friendly system and founded the company in 1990. The goal then was to create a simple system anyone could learn to use in a few hours. We kept enhancing the system, and slowly pharmacists caught on to how easy it was to use.
CT: What were the most important aspects when you started creating the system?
AM: When we designed the original system, we wanted to make sure we thought through the workflow: what options pharmacists needed at each step, what information they needed access to at each point in the filling process, such as the doctor information or patient history. We wanted it as comprehensive as possible, and have the right information accessible when it was necessary. That was our main focus.
We strengthen the program based on feedback. If one pharmacist thought something needed to be changed, then others probably felt the same way. For example, with D.0, we did webinars and made changes based on the feedback we received.
CT: It sounds like you really listen to your users to improve the system.
AM: It's important to talk to your customers. When we want to see how to implement a feature, we listen to the users' expectations. Our customers are forward-looking pharmacists, and we'll talk to our team after we hear what the customers have to say. Always the focus is a user-friendly and intuitive system or module. We are always asking what is needed at this point - what is the right information to be available at this point in the process.
CT: You mention D.0 - how did that play out?
AM: Getting ready for D.0 was a massive task. The major concern was how all the processors were going to interpret and implement the standard. For example, other coverage code is a 2-digit field. Some processors were recognizing 01 as a valid value while others were only accepting 1 without the leading zero. From past experience, we were expecting these nuances and designed our D.0 implementation to accommodate these differences.
CT: Besides D.0, how else has the system been enhanced?
AM: For the first of the year we added a lot of new features. Some of the new features involve messaging: text and email for refills, as well as general reminders. Another important release along the same lines is fillmyrefills.com. Pharmacists give their customers a Web address that has a portal to submit refills to their pharmacy using a pharmacy-specific code. The pharmacist doesn't have to manage a website but gets the benefits of online refills. When a customer puts in the refill, it comes up in the pharmacy refill queue. When we asked for feedback on this feature, pharmacists said they wanted something that was simple and Web-based and that they didn't have to manage.
CT: What other enhancements have pharmacists asked for?
AM: With younger pharmacists coming into the business, they expect full automation from day one; they don't want just our PrimeRx system, they are looking for interfaces. This generation of pharmacists understands the added value and efficiency of workflow. They see automation as a fundamental aspect to tackling their business issues.
Young pharmacists also see the value in getting the right numbers out of the system. They want to see immediately what they make on a prescription at the moment of the transaction. They want to have a better overview of the business with the information at their fingertips. It's very important to them to look at all the revenue streams.
Document management is another area where we've gotten a lot of feedback from our customers. One of the complaints was that scanning was time-consuming, that scanning individual documents as they come in slows down the pharmacist and his staff. If they can do it in batches during a slow time, that helps. We provided a batch scanning option that allows the pharmacist to scan a batch of prescriptions together and then each prescription is automatically attached to the right Rx number. This is a tremendous time-saving feature for the busy pharmacies.
Independents want to provide fast service. If the independent pharmacist has to tell a customer there is going to be a wait, that customer is going to move on. They want a system that lets them provide expedited service.
CT: And what's in store in 2012 after fillmyrefills.com?
AM: The next target in early fourth quarter is an iPhone app that interfaces with our fillmyrefills.com service. Plans are also in place to further enhance fillmyrefills.com and provide online access to patients to their prescription records. Another area of development is the enhancement to our EDI module whereby a pharmacist will be able to compare prices from different vendors and submit order for each item to the lowest price vendor. There are many other enhancements and improvements slated for release this year based on customer feedback.CT