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Brendan Gardner, right, shows two RBC15 attendees through the new Order Express app.  

An Interview with Cardinal Health’s Brendan Gardner

Cardinal Health’s Order Express platform is a key portal for customers to access a range of services. But one area where customers wanted to see some improvement was the technology they used to build orders based on the inventory on the shelves in the pharmacy and the front end. Cardinal Health heard what these customers were saying, loud and clear. The result is a brand new Order Express app that debuted at the recent Cardinal Health Retail Business Conference (RBC) 2015 in Las Vegas. In this interview, Cardinal Health’s Brendan Gardner, product marketing manager of mobile, gives ComputerTalk’s Will Lockwood the story.

ComputerTalk: Brendan, let’s start off hearing a little bit more about what the Order Express portal is, the one on the Web.


Brendan Gardner:
Sure. This is our customers’ portal into Cardinal Health. It’s the customers’ way to get information ranging from ordering to business practices and clinical programs support. Pharmacists and technicians spend a lot of time in Order Express every day. It’s really their primary point of interaction with us day to day.


CT: And the Web portal’s not just for ordering, as you note.


Gardner:
Right. Outside of ordering we have a lot of business process. You can do your daily check-in. And it allows them to create service requests if something does come up. It works end to end, so we have a program for true inventory management too, which is called CIM, or Cardinal Health Inventory Management. CIM will manage your in’s, your outs, and when you need to replenish. That is embedded within Order Express. They can manage all their credits within the Web portal, and they can even manage non-Cardinal Health product. It’s designed to be a one-stop shop for them.

We also offer a lot of different interfaces to import and export data, and we’re rolling out a new one that allows for automated purchase order import, which will take things to another level when you are using EDI [electronic data interchange] transactions. You can build orders in a completely separate system and EDI will transfer them into Order Express; so if something is out of stock, you won’t get an automatic substitution with a higher priced product just because it’s an exact match. It gives the pharmacist control to say that they want something that’s a slightly different dosage or quantity, but it’s a better cost and it’s on contract, so that’s a better purchase. We’re rolling that out now.


CT: OK. So something else that’s new is the Order Express app for mobile, right?


Gardner:
Yes, this is the newest thing. We’re officially rolling it out for Android and iPhone here at RBC 2015, and it’s already attracting a lot of attention.


CT: The business app for consumer mobile devices is definitely trending. What’s the story here with the Order Express app?


Gardner:
Well, it really has its origin in what our customers have been telling us. Let me give you the history, and you will see how we got here. Going way back, we used to give away Telxon scanners to customers to scan inventory, and that was the standard for a long time. They got phased out as we upgraded our technology. Then we moved to a lease model for the equipment, but what we heard loud and clear from customers was that they did not want to pay us to be able to do their basic ordering from us. And you look at the experience we all have as consumers these days and whether it’s Amazon or eBay or another seller, as the customer, we do not pay to order from them. The customer’s expectation is that the vendor will make it easy and free to order. And when we heard from our customers that they did not like the lease model, we looked at it and we could see it wasn’t really a benefit to Cardinal Health to do it that way either. So we said, “Let’s get a better system out there that will get to more people and give better ordering with more accuracy and lead to a better mix of products.”


CT: What’s the app’s focus?


Gardner:
The Order Express mobile app focuses specifically on the ordering, check-in process and inventory. Building this required us to take what’s traditionally a very complex process, with different people ordering for different parts of the pharmacy business at different times, and make it as simple as we possibly could. For example, it took us 15 versions of ordering to get it down to two screens. Same with receiving. We built the app to address these processes, and that is all it is doing right now.


CT: Why were you so dedicated to achieving simplicity?


Gardner:
We want to make sure that the app is flawless for the basic functions before we start adding bells and whistles. If the core functionality doesn’t work and people don’t use it, then anything else will be fluff. We don’t want to give people a lot they have to navigate through to get to these basic functions. 

In fact, there’s a mobile option that does have more functionality. We built a mobile version of the Order Express website as an intermediate step between the leased devices and the app. This is useful in certain situations, but the original Order Express site wasn’t really designed with mobile in mind; so a mobile version isn’t going to be as fast and as easy to use as people would want.


CT: OK, that’s interesting. Explain why that is.


Gardner:
Because the mobile site is based on the full Order Express portal, it has a lot of steps in it that people don’t necessarily want or need from a mobile version. The way we saw it, it goes back to the great consumer experiences people have with apps on their mobile devices from eBay or Pinterest and things like that. These aren’t replicas of what you can do on a computer-based browser. So we thought, “Why shouldn’t they have the same excellent experience with the mobile version of Order Express?” And that’s what led us to build the mobile app without all the complicated steps, so we could pare things down to the basics. When you open the Order Express app, there are just seven things you can tap on. That’s it.


CT: So this is something you get from the Android or Apple app store and just login?


Gardner:
Yes, you just download the app onto your mobile device. But, and this is important, there’s no login. You don’t need any information or credentials for the app. It’s completely unhooked from the Order Express Web experience — this is another way to make it light and agile.


CT: How does it communicate the order into the Order Express system then?


Gardner:
Through a couple ways; One thing we’ve learned is that people don’t want to be on the Internet to do this. They don’t want to have to be connected. That was the feedback we got last year. And unhooking the app from the Internet is another way for us to make it as fast and as clean of an experience as we can. So, we built a share mechanism that can use Bluetooth to transfer the order to your computer and the user can choose when and where to import it into Order Express. This is using the same import process that everyone is already familiar with for bringing orders into Order Express from all the different platforms they use.


CT: Walk me through a typical order process using the app.


Gardner:
A lot of people have systems that they are using to track inventory as it’s sold, but not everyone does, and not all systems can do this. So there are still pharmacies out there that have techs who walk the shelves, either prescription or OTC, and find out what’s missing. They scan those items and build the order. So in this case, instead of leasing a device or buying an expensive scanning device, they can load the Order Express app on to an Android or iOS device, and use that. And when the order’s ready, they import it into Order Express as I just described.


CT: Tell us about why it’s an advantage to use a consumer-grade Android or iOS mobile device, instead of going with a hardened commercial-grade device?


Gardner:
First, it’s much harder and more costly to develop technology for the hardened commercial grade technology. Most of it is Windows CE based and that’s just not that easy or cost effective to work with. And these devices are going to get broken or lost or have something go wrong with them in about two years anyway. There’s really not that much advantage then, despite it looking like a more robust solution. We’ve also found that we can deliver a truly enterprise solution on a consumer grade platform by using the right technology.

There are so many choices out there when you are looking at the consumer grade devices. We took all this into consideration and listened to what our customers were saying about leasing order devices. Based on that, our goal became getting our customers the ability to use an app at no cost other than an inexpensive mobile device. They can’t do everything they need to order and check-in on it, but it’s a lower cost point, there’s no commitment, and it’s very easy to give it a try. We’ve already heard a lot of people say that they’ve downloaded it and that they are taking a look. It’s meant to be that easy. CT

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