Running Your Business
Clinical connections shows way forward for Clanwilliam Health
“I never made a conscious decision to work in IT, but it turned out that medical software was something I found really exciting,” says Eileen Byrne, managing director of RxWeb creator Clanwilliam Health, of her 27-year career with the business.
Part of the Dublin-headquartered healthcare, technology and services company Clanwilliam Group – which employs over 1,200 people in Ireland, the UK, India, Australia and New Zealand – the Clanwilliam Health Division brings together software solutions designed to assist healthcare professionals across a range of settings. From GP and consultant clinics to pharmacies, care homes and hospitals, it has more than 20,000 clinical users across Ireland and the UK.
Clanwilliam Health is probably best known in the pharmacy sector for its RxWeb web-based PMR pharmacy management software, which grew out of the company’s first pharmacy software system developed in the 1980s. In July 2020, the Division agreed a commercial partnership with hub and spoke pioneer HubRx to allow RxWeb customers to use the HubRx service.
Ms Byrne has charted her own career evolution alongside that of the company, joining as a receptionist at what was then System Solutions in 1995 and progressing through a number of customer service and M&A roles before being appointed managing director of Clanwilliam Health in 2017.
“I was only 18 when I started and I enjoyed the work and wanted to learn more, so I put my hand up for any opportunity that came along, even if I didn’t know what I was doing,” she says. “So much has changed in the world of technology that I feel like I’ve been in multiple different companies as the business has evolved, although pharmacy has been there from the very beginning.”
Clanwilliam Health’s stated aim is to create software that provides healthcare professionals with the strongest possible digital foundation from which to deliver enhanced patient outcomes. It is also committed to facilitating and enabling a digitally connected healthcare environment, uniting primary and secondary care software systems for the benefit of patient care. This progression to more joined-up digital working for multidisciplinary teams is particularly pressing for community pharmacy.
“We know pharmacy is an extremely busy and challenging job,” Ms Byrne says. “The pharmacy environment is changing rapidly, and the pandemic hit the profession hard. When we talk about a ‘digital foundation’ for pharmacy, for us this means giving pharmacists the best PMR we can to make their day-to-day management of stock and services as easy as possible, alongside friendly and professional back-up and customer support.”
As all Clanwilliam’s pharmacy software is cloud-based, this allows for fast upgrades as well as easy connection with other systems. “Systems don’t – and shouldn’t – stand alone in the digital age,” says Ms Byrne. “Everything needs to connect, so we are connected into the NHS digital spine for prescribing and EPS, and this is also why we want to connect in with other partners, such as HubRx, to provide a hub and spoke model for our customers.”
As with so many organisations, the pandemic forced Clanwilliam Health to accelerate a lot of its development roadmaps. “Items that we had planned to develop down the line were suddenly required urgently and we needed to reschedule and re-prioritise based on what functionality could bring the most benefit in the challenging circumstances and protect the provision of care to patients,” says Ms Byrne.
Across the division, this meant working to deliver video consultation solutions, e-prescribing, covid vaccination recording and management solutions, and electronic referrals for covid tests.
"our roadmap into 2023 will be looking at even more opportunities to connect in with patients, as well as developing more connectivity for the services pharmacists want to provide"
For RxWeb in particular, this involved a full rewrite of the system architecture to upgrade to HTML5 in 2020 in order to develop new functionality and deliver faster upgrades for users. “This work has effectively future-proofed RxWeb and ensured stability and peace of mind for our customers, as we’ve delivered over 99.999 per cent service uptime since the rewrite,” says Ms Byrne (right), “something that is incredibly important to pharmacists when delivering efficient care to their communities.”
Internally too, Ms Byrne says: “There was a terrific energy amongst the wider staff because the work we were doing was incredibly important. There was a real feeling of ‘what can we do to help, and how can we do it quickly?’ As a managing director, I found it inspirational and took great pride in our response to the pandemic as a company.”
However, despite this rapid and agile response to the fast-moving challenges of the past three years, Ms Byrne says the pandemic was not the main impetus for these system reinforcements. “It wasn’t the pandemic driving it, it was in the diary anyway,” she says. “Over the last five years, we have grown the company significantly, reinvesting in our technology stacks, platforms and continuing to add functionality across all systems. We needed to do that so all our future plans can fall into place strategically, security wise and for our customers, ready for the changes that are coming down the track.”
LOOKING FORWARD TO SERVICES
What’s coming down the track for pharmacy, certainly, is a need to maximise service provision at a time when the profession is simultaneously facing a workforce crisis and a real terms funding decrease.
Explaining that the company utilises customer user groups and regular surveys to feed into its development roadmap, Ms Byrne says: “A huge focus now and for the foreseeable is improving workflows and adding functionality that allows customers to save time and money and makes their jobs easier, helping them capture resources which can be redeployed elsewhere in the pharmacy.”
To this end, Clanwilliam Health recently launched a One-Click Dispensing feature, as well as completing a pilot of its first app for RxWeb. The BagTraker app allows pharmacies to create multiple storage locations, including shelves, fridges and CD cabinets, for storing bags and medicines. Users can scan the barcode for their storage location/s and add the relevant bags, while texting their patients that their medicines are ready to collect.
Ms Byrne says these additions are “delivered for the pharmacy, but with the patient in mind as well. We’ve been watching what’s been going on with services, as well as patient empowerment across healthcare, so our aim is to give time back to the pharmacist, which they will need to carry out these services.
“For example, we surveyed our customers to ask where they wanted to see developments and they told us that the New Medicine Service, Community Pharmacist Consultation Service, smoking cessation, blood pressure testing, contraception and flu services were top of where they needed help. As a result, we are redesigning the framework of how this will all be delivered, and our roadmap into 2023 will be looking at even more opportunities to connect in with patients, as well as developing more connectivity for the services pharmacists want to provide.”
Ms Byrne says Clanwilliam is also “very excited” about its partnership with HubRx, which she believes will prove to be “a real game changer for independent pharmacies” by allowing them to access economies of scale that were previously only available to larger groups. This, of course, depends on the Government’s ongoing hub and spoke consultation passing, but Ms Byrne is confident it will go through. “We do believe it will happen,” she says, “which will be great as it will allow independents to get those efficiency gains that the multiples can by outsourcing to HubRx so they can concentrate on services.”
THE IMPORTANCE OF A WIDER VIEW
Its healthcare sector-straddling position gives Clanwilliam the benefit of a broader view of what system connections can and should be made. “We’re in a brilliant position when you consider the wider Division and the possibilities we have for creative integrations and innovative development,” says Ms Byrne. “For example, we just launched iMedDoc – a web-based practice management solution – into the UK market, and we are in the process of establishing a presence in the UK care home market with an Irish care management system called Epic Solutions.”
Next in its sights is what Ms Byrne calls a “patient self-service” app that enables patients to see all the services on offer at their local pharmacy and book appointments with the ones they want to access. It also gives pharmacies the means to interact back with patients via the app.
Further closing the loop, Ms Byrne says: “It’s not just exciting times for these respective products, there’s also huge excitement about what this means for RxWeb and other businesses within the Health Division. Can we leverage these products to create huge benefits for RxWeb customers? The answer is yes!”