Management Information System can be defined as a system that provides managers and employees with the information they need to perform their jobs as effectively as possible. (Pride W et al., 2010, pg 464)
It is unimaginable to have the idea of an information system without sophisticated information technology.
(Vidgen R et al., 2002, pg1-2)
Another definition which looks at the Management Information System from a different viewpoint is
“Any telecommunication and/or computer related equipment or interconnected system or sub-systems of equipment that is used for the acquisition, storage, manipulation, management, movement, control, display, switching, interchange, transmission, or reception of voice and/or data, and includes software, firmware, and hardware”.(oma.od.nih.gov/ms/privacy/privacyglossary.html)
However, if we combine these perspectives, Louden & Louden (2002) defines the four main factors that are mandatory for the success of an organization with information systems and have brought in tremendous changes and alteration to the business World.
It is important for an organization to operate on an international level and to manage its customers, suppliers and distributors.
Industrial economies are becoming knowledge based service oriented economies. Services are information and knowledge intensive, and many jobs rely on creating and distributing information. For example: healthcare.
New businesses have focussed more on meeting customers’ requirements. To meet this, Organizations need to invest in Information technology to have a competitive edge.
The e-businesses focus around their employees, customers and suppliers so they are much aware of the changes that take place in their environment and so they are able to respond in a quick manner to these changes.
AAH Pharmaceuticals is part of the Celesio Group which is an international company which specialises in pharmaceutical trade pharmaceutical related services. They cover seven countries serving 550,000 customers every day. (www.aah.co.uk) they have highly efficient and effective supply chain to support these operations and maintains a supply chain between manufacturers and consumers such as pharmacies and patients. Celesio offers pharmaceutical manufacturers logistics and distribution solutions and supports them in sales and marketing. Beside this AAH Celesio is also the parent company of other entities like Lloyds Pharmacy and Movianto
AAH Pharmaceuticals is the UK’s leading distributor of pharmaceutical and healthcare products and offers its services to varied agencies like pharmacy, hospitals and doctors. AAH has been established in the year 1923 and they are the only full line pharmaceutical wholesaler with comprehensive national reach including Northern Ireland, Channel Islands and the Isle of Man (www.aah-hospitalservice.co.uk)
Some of the key facts about the company are as follows:
- They have an extensive branch network with which they offer services to one customer every three seconds.
- The company is able to manage and serve its customers with the use of around 850 vans and they cover more than 23.5 million miles a year during the process.
- They have an extensive network of warehouses numbering nineteen in the United Kingdom through which they serve different customers around the country.
- They have around 20000 product lines at any given time which are operational.
- The company employs over 3800 people.
The following chart shows other companies owned by the Celesio Group.
MAIN FUNCTIONS OF INTEGRATED MIS
It is impossible to imagine the functioning of a company without a smooth flow of information across various departments. Electronic information is the only information which can be transferred with ease and minimal cost (Fattahi et al 2006).
This is understood that the main goal of any management information systems is optimization. This optimization can be achieved by facilitating decision making at the mentioned three tiers of management.
To facilitate and maintain a constant flow of results from decision making, Components of information systems like Decision support systems (DSS), Executive support systems (ESS) and Group decision support systems (GDSS) are used. With the help of these systems, managers are able to manage short and long term problems. In some cases employees from the third tier are involved to manage the quality of decision making of an organisation. This varies from one sector to another like in a customer service providing company like a call centre, the managers decide on forecasting and predicting the number of calls and the demand of the service provided and management of the services. These decisions effects the future of the company as these are combined with involvement of a huge budget and results in generating revenue
- Strategic level = Policy
- Senior management
- Tactical level = Procedure
- Middle management
- Operational level = Execution
- Operational management
The plans executed at the highest level of the pyramid are Strategic plans which are set and developed to succeed in achieving strategic goals. It is required by the Information systems of an organization to help analyze the business, along with its environment and formulate and check that it achieves its goals (Avison D, Fitzgerald G, 2003). Strategic planning is the outlining of decisions of resource allocation, and steps necessary to achieve targets or goals outlined by the top management and have an extended time period and keeps in mind factors like scope, resource development, competitive advantage and synergy.
(Griffin R, 2008, Pg. 65)
The strategic planning department considers the political, economical, sociological, technological, environmental, and legal aspects along with fiscal realities, geographical locations, and regional and inter departmental aspects for arriving at a long term plan for the growth of the organisation. (www.idrc.ca)
Senior management are helped by Strategic level systems in regards to long term trends and strategic issues.
ESS or Executive support systems support this tier of management.
Tactical is the middle level of management and it is the broadest spectrum of management. Most of the tactical management is undertaken by the rule of ‘management by exception’ which works on the concept of the subordinate reporting to the management if the matters are not proceeding as per plan. This also involves a clear definition of the roles and what constitutes normal performance or operations.
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At this level, managers face complexity and uncertainty and require judgement, insight and much interpersonal skill to carry out their tasks.( Lucey T, 2005, pg 275). At this level both formal and informal information are important and requires a constant flow, so the reliability on computers is less. But decision support systems play the most important part in assistance and decision making.
AAH Pharmaceuticals has a well designated structure in this regard and the same has been evolved in the manner to ensure that the company is able to achieve the desired level of control over the system, for which they have allocated different level of managers for handling different accounts and all of them are placed under the strategic arm which is handled by the secretary who would run different departments customised to meet the needs of individual customers like the Dispensing Doctor market, Community Pharmacy, Hospital Pharmacy, and ends at the manufacturing or the procurement side of the business. This wholesome integration creates value to every segment in the supply chain and the same can be monitored effectively by the respective department heads and enable appropriate tracking is made possible by the use of the system.
At operational level a detailed planning is made to execute the projects that were planned. (Melnik G, Holz H, 2004, Pg. 133)
At this stage the aspects of implementation of the strategic objectives are formulated and the same are undertaken by the operational teams. The initiation of the operational phase happens at the tactical level where the required software and training is planned.
At Operational level / Managers will
Estimate the amount of risk that is involved as per the customs mandate, business sectors, commodity, geographical areas, and / or mode of transport.
The same is then followed by carrying out a hazard analysis or risk identification process which is generally undertaken as part of the strategic planning.
The implementation of the control measures designed by the strategic planning team are undertaken by the operations level managers.
At Operational level managers also undertake the adaptation of national priorities into field / operational plans which would include the Implementation schedule, allocation of resources, plan the day to day activities, monitor the progress against the plans, and compare and report the regional achievements which are brought down from the national strategic plans.
Their activities are highly dependent on formal MIS which would be required to deal with the different aspects of the system and mostly it would be based on the inputs that are received from various sources.
Most of the information systems at the operational level are mainly based on the computers and the linear programming of the different variables to ensure that they are fool proof and be able to undertake different permutations and calculations on an automated manner. However, strategies based over experiences over some time are also called as Emergent Strategies. Strategy is gradually shaped over time and based on real life experience rather than theoretical positioning. (S Nigel et al., 2007, Pg 66)
AAH Pharmaceutical has a well structured top management with relevant experience in the field of pharmaceutical industry. They designate the future course of action by constantly upgrading and incorporating new technologies in the information technology domain by adopting relatively new forms of information management.
For example AAH pharmaceutical is planning to migrate to a new platform in partnership with Rx systems Ltd and will develop a single PMR( patient medical record) system for pharmacies.(www.zenopa.com) This system will be an extension to the Link system already in use and will be known as ProScript Link.
The strategic arm handles the partnership planning and modalities involved in the evolvement of the partnership. This helps the organisation to achieve a strategic advantage in comparison to the competitors with its advanced management information system.
Towards this goal the company has deployed different people to handle the requirements of various customers and the same are monitored on regular basis and validated before any orders are processed to ensure that the issues related to customs are maintained within tolerance limits. Any excesses would be reported and corrective measures undertaken either by the tactical management or the strategic management teams.
Health care information systems
Are usually clinical and administrative. Administrative information systems deals with financial data and supports the general operations of a health care organization.
While in contrast to this clinical information system deals with health related or clinical information which is used to maintain data in regards to diagnosis, treatment of patients. They maybe formulated for each separate sector of the health organization or may cover all aspects of patient care.(Wager K et al., 2005, Pg 92)
Link Evolution Software
AAH mainly deals with Pharmacies both in community & hospitals along with supply of medicines. AAH also apart from supplying pharmacies offers a complete computer based system designed to record, dispense, order and to conduct all other relevant task for an efficient pharmacy management programme. Most of the independent pharmacies have AAH as their key supplier for medicines that’s why they use AAH software for day to day functioning of their business. Managing Information System provided by the AAH is robust and is latest in terms of technological advancement and at par with the various other players in the industry like Boots which has got its own managing system.
AAH’s system is called ‘LINK EVOLUTION’.
The main aim of the software is to facilitate the users to conduct their daily pharmacy activities along with providing expert tools related to management, audit and user controls.
AAH Pharmaceuticals specifically designed this in order to provide their customer the IT support. This allows pharmacies to save costs in terms of spending money on IT equipment such as computers, printers, labellers and other technical equipment. AAH provides a customer support line in order to resolve any issues. This key feature has made AAH an obvious choice in terms of choosing a supplier and has helped them build their business to a level where AAH supply almost every pharmacy in the UK in some capacity.
Some of the important functions are as follows:
- Dispensing System for prescriptions.
- Incorporates a Database of medical information and allows checking information about medicines its use, interactions, side effects, dosage and other information.
- Contains vast line products which cover almost everything available in the medicine market of the UK.
- Recording of Patient Medical Records.
ADVANTAGES OF THIS SYSTEM
Most important feature is that it indicates any interactions or problems with patient’s prescription and gives the intensity of the problem such 4 star interaction which means a severe interaction that requires immediate attention:
- Online ordering system
- Online stock checking
- Allows the user to print request of medicines and medical records
- Allow the user to calculate cost and bulk amount of medicines dispensed in a certain period of time
- Clinical Audit
- Monthly prescription counts
IMPLEMENTATION OF THE SOFTWARE
The AAH Link Evolution is software which is mainly designed for operational level management where statistics and information are required at hand to make decisions. This software is the key source for pharmacies to manage their day to day work.
The software provides an administrator based user control where the Administrator can monitor and designate responsibilities for user according to their role in the company.
At Larvic Pharmacy, one of AAH Pharmaceuticals customers, the administrator is the Line Manager who is responsible for managing the entire daily tasks and supervises other staff members.
Financial and Operational Benefits of Link Evolution
Just in Time (JIT) function of Link Evolution for Special products
Special products are medicines which are not ready made and require time for formulation according to specification. The order pad indicates the product which is special obtain. These products are quiet expensive and cannot be returned in case of incorrect order so requires an extra approval to go ahead with the order. Whenever an order is placed for a special product, a specific pop up comes up in the main warehouse, where an appropriate employee makes a call to relevant customer to take verbal consent and to approve the order for further process. This service makes the AAH stand out from its rivals as these products require special lab techniques & staff which are costly to maintain.
The software is responsible for recording patient medical records, printing label, endorsing prescription, providing staff information and prices of products, place order through the telephone line & print documentation such as records & requests.
Link Evolution provide a wide variety of tool involving security, monitoring, checking, products recalls, audit logs, clinical audits, prescription counts and other options such as back ups, checking previous entries, amendments & remote accessibility are some of them.
Link Evolution allows the manager to monitor
the progress of the individual employees and also overall progress of the business. It gives out details such as amount medicines dispensed in certain period of time and gives a forecast of the overall cost & profits that pharmacy will earn.
Features of Software
Patient Medical Record
Link Evolution provides user to record patient data and prescription which will allow them to record their details including details such as name, address, contact numbers and other related information. These records help the pharmacy staff to check previous medication of the patient and help them indicating any interaction or issues to the patients and help doctors in deciding what is best for the patient.
Patient can be searched by different inputs such as fore names, surnames, address and date of birth
PMRs Item Counts
Software has a special feature that allows staff to counts the number of items dispensed for a specific patient in date order. This feature allows the user to forecast the date when the patient is due for next supply.
Detailed Order Pad
Link’s order Pad gives the user a detailed view of all the products that can be ordered with both generic and branded products along with their prices. Most of the products are listed with exact specification which allows easy selection of the correct products.
Ordering is one the most important feature of Link Software. With the help of this feature user can order medicines while labelling a prescription.
Labelling is the most important feature of the service as it is most used option of the software. Labelling options gives a fast and easy use layout which is easy to adopt and the staff training in this aspect is very minimal.
The Software is connected to an endorser and printer. The endorser allows the user to print the details of the dispensed items and the pharmacy address on the side of the prescription which makes it easier for the Prescription Pricing Agency (PPA) to reimburse the correct amount for each dispensed medicine.
Link allows user to select specific medicines from patient records for ordering. These request can be printed and to be posted in the relevant doctor’s practice or in some cases given to the patient.
Administrator account allows keeping a control for managers to check and restrict user from accessing data that they are not supposed to access.
User control also allows the administrator to assign specific roles to the users such as locum pharmacist, manager, technician & shop assistant.
Link Evolution Information system and Risk Management
Backs up the data on to a remote server which allow the user to have piece of mind in case of a system failure or malfunctioning
It also helps to manage product recalls which is quiet helpful as not many soft wares have this feature which can tell them a specific product when and to whom its been given over a certain period of time
Audit log gives the list of all the events occurring in date and time order. In case of a forgery or misconduct these logs allow people to checks the details of the events occurring in a specific time & date. For an example: In case a forgery of Patient record the log will give the exact time, date & user who amended the details and thus gives concrete evidence in solving most forgery issues
Link software gives an option to merge two patients in case the same patient has been created in the system more than once. This helps the staff in managing efficient record keeping and to avoid any mistakes.
Although the software is robust, refined and provide almost all the useful tools that are needed for day to day operation but there is always room for improvement.
As an employee for the Pharmacy the author is responsible for managing information and feels that there are some improvements can be made to improve services which are as follows:
Computer failures, Human errors and environmental hazards are threats to this system
Addition of a service tool in which employees can generate patient lists according to different nature of services provided as they deal with services such as Unit Dose Dispensing which requires a different approach from regular patients.
Patient Medical Records held onto as a group which allows to record patient’s data into a family classification. It will help to identify patient family members if they come to collect medicines or information about their family. This will also allow accessing their records more easily.
A service tool that will allow checking how many addresses an individual patient is recorded at. This is really important to reduce any errors or confusions regarding patient records. This has happened in the past that a patient’s medicine was sent to wrong house due to their similar names.
Generate and print prescription collection lists. At the moment staff has to use MS Office to do that.
Stock checking will allows ordering enough stock before it runs out.
Electronic Prescription Endorsement where prescription can be scanned instead of endorsing them manually.
From the above it can be seen that the company has a very structured and efficient mechanism in place for the smooth functioning of the entire process and the robustness of the system that has been in place at AAH can be understood by the fact that the company’s software was the first to be given approval for Electronic Prescription Service (EPS) which is being implemented by the National Health Service (NHS) and the same can be considered to be of immediate relevance and the effectiveness of the information management system that is in place in the company. The overall structure which is discussed above is one of the ways in which an appropriate control measure and the desired result of information systems can be achieved if the system is put in place and the same is looked at always with a view to upgrade the same on constant basis.
Explanations of terminologies used in this text
- Executive Support System (ESS): Is a computer based system which is directly under the control of an executive. This system provides current status information on internal and external conditions of the organizations. Most of the time while, setting a new ESS system, it is required by the system analyst to set this according to the demand and requirement of the CEO and his staff.
- Decision Support System (DSS): Decision support systems support management level systems. They go beyond simply reporting information and incorporate rules, formulas, or specialized display that are designed to help end users make decisions. Scheduling and staffing are areas where decision support can be helpful. For e.g. how many people should be employed at a given period of time or at a particular event. (Jossey P, 2004, Pg 60)
- Knowledge Management System (KMS): KMS are primarily considered as an extension of traditional databases with collecting and organizing the output of reports, memos and financial statements. In business information systems, KMS involves the capturing, storing, retrieving and distributing the knowledge for others to improve the quality, efficiency of decision making across the firm. Gelinas U, Dull R, 2009, Pg 174,
USED AT OPERATIONAL LEVEL
This system process application, records and process business transaction such as accepting customer order, placing an order with a vendor or making a payment. (Baskerville R et al.,2000, pg 68)
This also includes, web based applications that link an organization with its customers and suppliers.
Link Evolution follows on similar steps and used at operational level of the three tiers of management.
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