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Australian Journal of Pharmacy : March 2005
information technology been preferred because it is much easier to ensure security from within a VPN than a Web-based IP. Consider the Govern- ment’s dumped MediConnect project which failed to win the support of its stake- holders when privacy imperatives were jeopardised by security concerns. The goal of Pharmacy InfoNetwork, according to NSW pharmacist and a pro- ponent of the initiative Damian Smith, is to lift pharmacy to another level of effi- ciency and potency as a retail channel. ‘We have been embracing technology over the last 50 years, but trouble is we have reached the limits of sole traders. Each of us is currently an island. Push us all together, link arms, link computers and reap the rewards! The next step in tech- nology is the good step. This is when we harness the 5,000 pharmacy computers on one connection or portal.’ Mr Smith maintains that the current challenge for community pharmacy is to improve the way in which it manages the delivery of its retail channel. In doing so it would decrease the reliance on dispens- ing PBS items, which is under ongoing budgetry pressure from the Government and scrutiny from other groups, such as supermarkets, who aim to diminish phar- macy’s power base. Improved efficiencies Mr Smith said such a platform would enable improved efficiencies and capabil- ities by making better use of data already being generated by existing information management tools, such as dispense and POS systems. It would also connect indi- vidual pharmacies and their data with other suppliers—such as wholesalers, accountants, or other pharmacies - within an existing network for improved bench- marking, quicker commercial transactions and access to much more useful data. But an overarching information man- agement platform, configured as a VPN, would also deliver other opportunities, including improved banking, marketing, training and even opportunities to make significant savings on telephony charges. Banking options ‘Together we do $3bn per year in EFT- POS transactions and that’s growing. Major supermarkets often receive their terminals free and receive substantial dis- counts and commissions—and have you seen how quick their terminals are? We are still on costly old dial-up technology. Via the VPN we could bundle our EFT- POS business and put it up for tender. You can actually run a bank terminal over the same IP, that’s if you wanted to. Smart terminals also mean we could col- lect fees through services such as health