Responsible for auditing some 50,000 pharmaceutical reps every year, PDMA relied on manual systems to assign its field inventory specialists. With a custom application developed by MIS, the process has been cut from days to hours—saving time and slashing costs.
PDMA (Pharmaceutical Distribution Marketing Audits) is a consultant to the pharmaceutical industry, responsible for conducting third party independent audits of pharmaceutical reps. These audits, required by the FDA, track the drug inventories carried by reps and given away as samples to physicians—reporting, for example, what drugs they're carrying, how they're stored, and how many have been given out.
One of the challenges PDMA faces in performing this task is assigning one of their independent contractors—who conduct the audits—to pharmaceutical reps throughout the United States. When faced with the need to assign out hundreds of auditing assignments every day, they realized how badly they had outgrown their manual systems.
"A pharmaceutical company would come to us and ask us to handle audits for their 1,000 reps," says Denise Farrington, Vice President. "We had to manually pull out maps that covered the entire U.S. and use rulers to figure out where our closest field inventory specialist was. It took a team of four or five people several days to assign out all of the audits."
MIS helps PDMA map out a better plan.
"We knew that we could totally automate the process," says Glenn Smith, President of MIS. "By using solid geometry, we could figure out the distances between zip codes. Meaning that now, PDMA can schedule an audit by simply selecting the pharmaceutical rep, and entering a radius of miles. The software will retrieve all the field inventory specialists within that radius."
Initially, the application was loaded on a single computer. However, as PDMA added staff, they needed to be able to assign auditors from multiple workstations, or from remote locations. At that point, MIS recommended converting it into a web-based application.
"Now, anyone with a password can access the application any time, from anywhere," says Denise. "We can assign audits from any workstation in the office, or from anywhere in the world for that matter. We can also give our clients access to the information so they can track the status of their audits on their own. It's been tremendous."
When PDMA receives an assignment, an Excel spreadsheet of the pharmaceutical reps is loaded into the application. At that point, each rep is assigned an auditor who works within a reasonable distance. The system then prints out an assignment sheet, by auditor, by company. A mailing house prints mailing labels and mails the assignment out. The field inventory specialists then conducts the audit, and sends the paperwork back to PDMA. Finally, PDMA moves the assignment out of "active" status and into a "completed" file.
PDMA can also pull reports on which audits have been assigned, but not completed, and those assigned and completed. As well as track comments about each pharmaceutical rep. This is very helpful when PDMA needs to report to their clients why a particular audit wasn't completed, or if a rep isn't making themselves available.
The savings: well over $100,000 per year.
"What used to take us at least 40 hours in manpower now takes us just 5 or 6 hours," says Denise. "Because we send out several hundred assignments per day, the savings really add up."
The system also helps PDMA manage their own workforce. Updating the status of field inventory specialists (for example, adding or subtracting a specialist, or placing them "on hold" if they're away). They can also monitor the quantity and quality of their work (how often PDMA has used them, how quickly they complete their assignments.) And, instead of having to keep a manual count of their pay sheets, they can simply print out a report.
Taking the next step.
With the new mobile apps (both iPhone/iPad and Android) developed by MIS, PDMA is taking the auditing process to the next level. With the current system, auditors have paper forms and fill them out manually and have the sales rep sign and mail it back to the home office. There the records were inputted into the system.
The new mobile apps collect the information in the field, including signature, and update the database either in real time when connected to the internet or later if no internet connection is available. The apps speed up turnaround time tremendously and allow PDMA to leap frog their competition and position themselves as a cutting edge company.
"I'm not a computer expert. So when we sit down with MIS on a regular basis and ask them 'Can you do this? Can you do that?', they provide advice in normal, business terms, not in computer talk," remarks Denise. "Many times, they've guided me to a more sensible, cost-effective solution than I had in mind. They want to be sure that the work they do is something we really need."
"They're great to work with. I find that they're always willing to go the extra mile—whether it's providing exceptionally fast service, or acting as our internal IT team and meeting with our clients. I expect that we'll continue to upgrade the application and find ways for MIS to continue to support our business for many years to come."