The Back Page
An interview with Speed Script’s Heath Reynolds
For 35 years, Speed Script Pharmacy Management Systems and Services has provided a software system to pharmacists that addresses the needs and requirements of independent pharmacy by embracing change. In this interview, Heath Reynolds, Speed Script’s director of business development, shares the company’s excitement about the release of its new software and explains the company’s philosophy that businesses that embrace and initiate changes will thrive.
ComputerTalk: As a vendor, how has your approach to technology changed over the years?
Heath Reynolds: The evolution of technology in and of itself has ultimately played the biggest part in our approach to serving customers. When I first started in the industry 13 years ago, patients carried handwritten prescriptions into the pharmacy. The pharmacist manually entered the prescription into the pharmacy system and adjudicated the claim using a dial-up modem, without any automation of coordination of benefits. Thirty seconds later, when the paid claim made it back to the pharmacy, a dot matrix printer would start shuffling back and forth — printing the prescription label that would get taped to the vial that a technician manually filled with pills after also counting them by hand. The patient usually waited during this process, or came back later in the day to pick up the prescription.
Today, the process is similar, but the evolution of technology has completely expedited each step. If you stop and compare, in the amount of time it took to adjudicate a claim 13 years ago, a prescription today is received electronically by the pharmacy system, adjudicated simultaneously to multiple insurance providers, and the label printed on a thermal printer and stuck to the vial, which is located inside a robotic dispensing system that has precisely counted and placed the pills in the vial. Since the prescription arrived electronically at the pharmacy, before the patient, it’s likely that they’ll receive a text message or automated outbound call notifying them that their prescription is ready for pickup before they even have to wait at the pharmacy counter.
Speed Script software is the center of this entire process for our customers. I say this with humility because all good software vendors in the industry today have done this, but if we hadn’t been certified to receive electronic scripts, worked tirelessly to automate coordination of benefits, written interfaces to robotic dispensing systems, and developed a text message reminder service, our customers wouldn’t have the latest technology to serve their patients and operate their businesses as efficiently. We have a huge responsibility to constantly innovate. To streamline and simplify every aspect of our customer’s businesses. We eagerly accept the challenges that the evolution of technology presents and are excited to introduce our next innovation — a completely new pharmacy management system based on the Windows platform.
CT: What was the tipping point to developing a completely new platform for the Speed Script system?
Reynolds: A couple of factors weighed heavily in our decision to develop our new pharmacy system, but the largest factor, by far, was feedback from our customers and prospective users. Our legacy software operates on the Linux platform. It’s extremely efficient, stable, fast, and even has bells and whistles that some Windows-based systems don’t. It continues to serve our customers very well. However, the perception of text-based systems has become unfavorable, especially in the eyes of the younger generation of pharmacists. Like anything else technology related, if something looks “old” it’s perceived to not work as well as something shiny and new. Regardless of the fact that our legacy system could do pretty much everything that a shiny-looking Windows-based system could — offered at a better price point I’ll add — we were getting passed up by prospective customers that simply wanted Windows-based software. Some of our existing customers were expressing similar thoughts as well. At that point it became clear and obvious that we needed to develop Speed Script for Windows to meet the expectations of our existing customers and attract new customers.
CT: What were some of the issues your development team ran into, and how did you shift directions?
Reynolds: From a technical standpoint, we were starting from scratch — selecting database layouts, deciding how client computers would quickly and efficiently access the database tables on the main server, figuring out user license connections, and determining many additional components that would be key in setting the foundation of the software. From a user experience standpoint, at first, we were considering new screen layouts and functionality. We were kicking around a couple of ideas that we thought were really good, but hadn’t completely settled on a direction. Long story short, our CTO, Chuck Welch, had an epiphany: We were overthinking it. The answer to the question we were wrestling with had already been given to us. Our customers had often told us how much they liked the speed, efficiency, and simplicity of our software. Even customers that had converted to other software vendors in the past told us that they missed the efficiency and simplicity of Speed Script. That’s when Chuck made the decision to keep the front end of our software, the user experience functionality, the exact same, but with a fresh, eye-pleasing appearance. From the feedback we’ve received thus far, it was the best decision that we made. Well, best decision that was made for us!
CT: What feedback did you get from customers as you gave them an idea of what the new system would look like?
Reynolds: Once we decided on the direction of the new system, we began working through the development process. As we finished pieces of the software, we showed them to select customers to make sure we stayed on the right path. Last November we unveiled the new system at our user’s conference. Rather than simply talking about the new software, we used it in front of everyone to address questions that were actually directed toward the legacy system. We wanted to show our customers that the new software is so similar to the legacy system that we could address the questions using the new version. We also set up workstations where customers could actually use the software, ask questions, and provide candid feedback. Watching customers use the new software for the first time was really exciting for our team. Like anything new, customers approached the software with caution, if you will. They clicked around, pecked on the keyboard, performed the functions they normally do throughout the day, and commented about how it was exactly like the legacy system. They liked the fact that we kept the functionality, field layout, keystroke sequence, speed, and simplicity of the old system and combined it with everything Windows software has to offer. When we unveiled the software at the user’s conference we were in the alpha testing phase — testing the software in-house. We gave our customers the opportunity to sign up for beta testing in their stores and had great enrollment, a positive testament that our customers approved of the direction we had chosen.
CT: How do you view a system migration like this for customers, and how do you help them with the change?
Reynolds: We realize that change isn’t usually a welcome thing. We’re all creatures of habit. The nice thing about this change is that there really isn’t going to be that much change in the way our customers use the new Speed Script system. The tasks and functions they perform hundreds of times per day are the exact same. If they want they can click on items that used to only be function key driven. We were deliberate and mindful of how our customers would feel about migrating to the new system. We wanted to keep the user functionality changes to a minimum.
Many of our customers have already seen the new system at trade shows or via online demos. We have customers that are using the software in their pharmacies today, for which we owe a great deal of gratitude. Without their taking the leap of faith to become first adopters, we’d never be able to release a new system. Those who haven’t seen the new software will have the opportunity to view online demos and ask questions before migrating. It’s our hope that our customers see the migration as an upgrade, rather than just a change. We will give every effort we can to making their migration as seamless and stress free as possible.
CT: After 35 years in the industry, how do you create a company culture of change and evolution?
Reynolds: Whether we like it or not, the bottom line is that change is inevitable and an integral part of today’s business climate. The businesses that embrace and initiate change will thrive, while those that fear or reject change may, unfortunately, be headed for disappointing times. Consider the examples given with the evolution of technology in pharmacy. Can you imagine what our industry would be like if we were still adjudicating claims using dial-up modems? I think it’s safe to assume that most actually enjoy the results and benefits of change if we just give it a chance. This is probably going to sound strange, but I think the way we’ve created a company culture of change and evolution is by doing just that — changing and evolving. Throughout the years I feel like we’ve also shared a lot of compassion with our customers. There have been times where they’ve waited on us to make changes for them. In turn, we’ve also been patient with our customers, allowing them to adopt new technologies that we’ve presented over the years when they’re ready. Everyone in our company is excited about the release of our new software because it represents change and evolution not only for us, but more importantly, for our customers and future customers. CT
To learn more about Speed Script visit www.speedscript.com.