Most of us rarely give the work systems and technologies that we use on a daily basis any thought unless – something goes drastically wrong with them. The Medipost Holdings group, though, is an organisation where technical issues are a most unlikely occurrence, thanks largely to an internally-developed bespoke technology system that has recorded only a single incidence of downtime in the last two years.
“With so many South Africans across the nation are reliant on the group – which includes Medipost Pharmacy, MediLogistics and Kawari Wholesalers – to deliver the chronic and other medicines critical to the maintenance of their health on time every time, it is particularly important that the group’s systems were developed to be as fail-proof as they possibly could be,” says Adrian Swart, who heads up the IT department within the group.
“If you consider our track record, we have done remarkably well in this regard. The company’s highly sophisticated systems, which were all purpose-developed internally over a period of some 12 years to meet the exacting needs and requirements of the group and its staff members, have proved to be highly adaptable and thoroughly dependable,” Swart adds, having been with the Medipost group for close on 20 years.
Reflecting on the single incidence of downtime, Swart says that it occurred when three air-conditioning systems failed on a particularly hot day, resulting in the servers overheating. The IT team were on to the problem immediately, working through the night and restoring the system within hours.
“We are exceptionally proud of the software suite that we have developed. It has not only enabled us to meaningfully support the work of our colleagues, but has also facilitated access to medicines for so many South Africans over the years, and assisted them to remain compliant with their treatment regimes.”
Checks and controls
Swart says the entire business has now been developed around this sophisticated IT system into which numerous controls and checks have been built. “Across the group we are all aware that there is no room for issues such as dispensing mistakes and the system therefore has built-in cross-checks to assist staff in getting everything right, every time.”
The system assists Medipost Pharmacy and Kawari Wholesalers to control stock up to the value of R300 million per month; and enables the processing of some 350 000 monthly scripts as well as the successful delivery of medicines to every corner of South Africa. In addition, the Medipost group’s call centre records the enquiries received via some 60 000 phone calls a month, and enables queries to be easily integrated into the workflow system where necessary.
With considerable experience in programme development, Swart notes that Medipost group initially investigated whether an existing software platform could be adapted, but it was found this would be exceedingly costly and ill suited for the job at hand. “We consequently decided to develop our own systems from the ground up, saving some R350 million in the process.
“As the system is completely integrated, everyone in the group – including the staff of Kawari Wholesalers and Medipost Pharmacy – are always working on the same page. So those working within the stock system can see exactly what medicines we have in stock and what may be needed to meet future requirements.”
The system also enables clients to phone the call centre and track exactly where their order is. “Staff members are alerted to any issues with a delivery to a client and can follow up so medicines can be delivered to them successfully. We can also inform clients if there may be a co-payment due or if there is some other problem with their prescription.”
Reflecting on the history of Medipost, Adrian recalls how the group grew slowly but surely in the early days: “Starting with just six people we now have a staff of more than 1 850. The group is also very different from an IT perspective: we had six printers in 1999 and now possess some 250. Our department now maintains approximately 1 500 computers and IT systems, and has installed some 25km of cabling to ensure that all are connected.”
Swart says the dedicated and skilled 35-member IT team are always on hand at the backend in order to ensure that the system runs seamlessly and enables almost every aspect of the companies’ work.
“The team, some of whom have been with the company since its inception, have a determination to be there for clients and staff members alike, and will always go the extra mile to ensure that all are provided with a highly responsive and first-class IT service. I consider it an honour to have the opportunity to introduce the team and highlight some of the tremendous work we do here.”