An Interview with Hi-School Pharmacy’s Gina Jacobus

…Read Part 1

CT: So workflow is important, but so is flexibility in how you can set it up. What are your next steps now that you’ve got the conversion complete?
Our goal — now that we’ve got everyone converted and we’ve got our new store open — is to, first, step back and take breath. Then we are going to go back and start making tweaks in all the new installs that we’ve been doing within each store. As much as each store stands alone, we still want there to be certain aspects of the software and our operations that are universal and that are controlled in our central office. For example, we still want our stores to be unified in pricing.

After that our next step is to start getting our maintenance medication and our synchronization program started. We will be focusing on what everyone should be doing so that every location is a five-star pharmacy. And our centralized control really does drill down. Some of our pharmacies have even taken the changes that have resulted a little personally. They want to know why they aren’t in control of certain things at the store anymore. It’s important that they understand that we’re not trying to micromanage them, but it is equally important to have consistency and a great customer experience each and every time. 

CT: This sounds like an important area in which you have to manage all this change.
It is. But the store staff understands our focus after we explain the big picture to them. Once they understand why we need more centralized control and how this is going to lead to a better chance for a five star rating or how it’s going to support our need to do more MTM [medication therapy management], then the benefits become clear. So we have as a goal to have more of our pharmacists understand all of the benefits that this new software platform offers. They’re definitely getting more on-board. They are understanding that you can’t run pharmacies the same way you did years ago.

CT: So education is a very important part of the transition. What about some more of the details, the things that pharmacies might not realize they need to anticipate when they are making changes or upgrading their systems?
What’s important is to make sure that you are including the staff who are really using the software every day. We wanted to make sure we had buy-in from owners, but it’s their staff that runs the stores so if we didn’t get them involved, we wouldn’t be successful. Then we had to take into account that we have stores that are three hours away from our HQ, and it’s not reasonable to expect their staff to come to us for training. So we took a couple of different approaches to training.  

First, we took advantage of Webinar-based training. I had to schedule out time for the stores to do those training sessions. Then we had our computer department go out ahead of the installs and change many of the stores’ layouts. We put swing arms on all our monitors so that we could move the stations as needed once we did come in with the install. 

We also staged the rollout in stores that are near each other, which meant we could set up practice sites in one store that was live with the new software and then rotate employees from nearby stores in for training. That was a great way to give staff hands-on experience with people who were already comfortable using the software in our live environment. They get to test the system before they go live on their own.

CT: That sounds like a good strategy.
It worked well. And something else that was huge was that we really did have a good attitude about the conversion. You’re always going to have your people who are wanting to retire anyway, and the thought of bringing in the new system may have encouraged that to be sooner than later, but for the most part we had 98% on board for this. People were happy to get the new system in. They worked really hard and many, many long hours for about the first week or so of the rollout at each store, trying to make sure they were caught up for the next day. I really do have to say that our stores and our teams and everybody just had really good attitudes, which was absolutely critical. Our IT guys really came through for us. During the first two months we did a single store a week. Then for two months we did two stores a week.

CT: It’s such a big task, and as you said, having that positive attitude from the employees and the staff is critical.
The owners and everybody at the leadership level were just super supportive on their side of it as well. They allowed the staff to do overtime and allowed them to come in at different times. There are a lot of big companies that wouldn’t allow that. I’m very proud of our company. It’s very family based still. Everybody knows everybody by name, not by a number, and I just know that if you were a bigger store, that overtime for something like learning a new system is not allowed. You’d just be expected to get up to speed on your own time. They were very flexible in letting us learn and get through these two-week installation cycles at each store. That’s what made our rollout a success. CT