Reinventing the patient value chain

Ashley Cowen, supply chain director at McKesson UK, spoke recently at our annual manufacturers’ event about the vision to reinvent the patient value chain.

He says:

Pressures like increased regulation have a tremendous impact on the healthcare industry and we are facing considerable cost pressures. I believe we can address the challenges by doing things differently, not just by doing old things in a different way.

We need to understand what our customers want and efficiency is the end result of this customer focus. We are bolstering our teams and their capabilities with the goal of achieving operational excellence, the fundamental foundation for change.

Over the last 12 months we have restructured our teams, bringing in new talent to really help us make a difference. Because there’s a patient at the end of everything we do, our people are much more highly motivated to improve than those in other industries. We are all patients at the end of the day – or we know someone who is.

Focussing on our operational systems has resulted in more efficient ways of working. Plus we’ve utilised Six Sigma, embedding it in how we operate, enabling us to identify uneconomical areas and find ways to improve our processes.

We have also invested heavily in our warehouses. We have spent £14 million on site upgrades, including our new robotic packaging unit in Bristol which is now live and providing increased capability for our Warrington branch. We are also getting ready to launch our third Prescription Assembly Solution (PAS) unit in Ruislip next year. These improvements will help centralise some of the repetitive elements of the dispensing process, thereby freeing up time for store colleagues to spend with patients rather than packing prescriptions. We have also invested in transporting medicine, with the majority of our vans now being fitted with temperature control and an on-board safe for controlled drugs.

In addition, we are upgrading our online ordering system for all our pharmacy customers, simplifying the process and making it easier for them to order the medicines their patients need. We are focussed on increasing availability; 98% of medicines ordered are now delivered to pharmacies on time – as long as it’s on our shelves. Our biggest challenge for delivering on our patient/customer promise is our supplier delivery performance so relationships with manufacturers are critical.

One major opportunity for improvement is our IT systems. Customer behaviour is changing and patients are starting to expect their pharmacy to offer the same services as other retailers.  Developing our online capability to enable patients to order repeat prescriptions online or via apps, will dramatically improve our service to them. We’ll also be looking at new innovative ways to continue our digital and data progression, building an infrastructure around the patient journey.

There will always be areas for improvement and with new technology we will continue to improve our capabilities to benefit patients.

First and foremost, we always keep in mind what our patients need. All improvements we make must ensure patients can get what they need, when they need it and how they prefer to receive it.