How I went about building pharmacy software
The Titan Story Part 2/6, by Tariq Muhammad, CEO
When I started business in 1994, I never imagined myself building pharmacy IT systems. Sure, I used Windows, Word and Excel in the course of running my business, but I had no particular desire to go off and write software. My passion was to develop pharmacy services and extend the role of the pharmacist beyond selling nappies, perfumes and changing camera films (can you believe pharmacists really did this back in the day!)
But my outlook on IT changed when it was clear that PMR companies were unhelpful, to say the least. The need to get a grip on my 12 pharmacies was fundamental and technology was the only way this was going to happen. I remember being at home one weekend in June 1999, switching on my Windows 3.1 and opening Microsoft Access for the first time. I started looking into “relationship databases”. There were no YouTube videos to watch, so I had to actually read a book. Suddenly, memories of programming computer games as a kid came flooding back. Although I was now looking at a fancy database program, the coding element behind it hadn’t really changed from BASIC, and I remember thinking “I can do this”.
Warehousing - That weekend I had written a program from scratch that could manage a small warehouse operation. It had a database of products, you could create an order, print a picking list, prepare a dispatch note and generate an Inter-Branch Invoice. Pharmacy Plus had started wholesaling to its shops, so this program could manage the process and stock holding. We implemented the system inside a week and it worked. My first home made system was now running a part of my business and, more importantly, it did exactly what I needed, and not what someone else thought I wanted.
Staff Management - During the day, I was running a pharmacy business and during evenings/ weekends I refined my computer program. My confidence grew, so now that I was employing over 100 staff across my business, I needed to keep better records of their holidays, absences and training history etc. I decided to make my own Staff Management application.
Collection and Deliveries - Pharmacy Plus had launched a new service for home deliveries called Pharmacy Plus Direct (PPD). At a time when home deliveries weren’t really a big thing, PPD promised a reliable and customer-friendly service. Of course, we needed a system to manage it so guess what, we built our own. The PPD system managed customer orders, repeat collections and scheduling deliveries. PPD became a big success on the back of a slick IT process that we had created.
Over the next few years Pharmacy Plus grew from 12 branches to 22 sites stretching from Cheltenham to Plymouth. Bespoke pieces of technology were successfully now running key aspects of the business. My two key staff, Wahid and Jeff (respectively, Invatech’s CTO and CIO today), took over writing the programs and we made a formidable team. As a pharmacist and business owner, I knew what I wanted but I could also translate this to technical jargon for them to understand and build.
And so we set our sights on the holy grail of pharmacy technology – to build our own fully functional PMR system that was fit for our purpose. Over 2 years we worked tirelessly, and I still remember the day when we printed our first dispensing label. It was 11th September 2001. Pharmacy Plus’ PMR became known as CAPA – Consolidated Application for Pharmacy Administration – and it would change our business forever.