Have you got a spare stadium to store all of your paper records from the past seven years? Cool. This article isn’t for you. For everyone else, come one, come all. Beezwax Business Solutions founder Pasquale DeMaria delves into why the paperless revolution is going to make your life tidier, simpler and give you time to spare.
Our industry is choking with paper. Prescriptions, invoices, reminder notes, order pads, faxes, consumer medication information, receipts, medication charts – the list goes on. At the end of this paper trail are the actions required: store, shred or recycle. Actions that take time, cost money and are environmentally dubious. Let’s look at the problems of paper.
Storage is a b****
Asking a business to store seven years of records is a Marie Kondo nightmare – no matter how life changing your tidying up magic is. Pharmacies with limited storage simply don’t have the space, and often the records spill into private life – overflowing under the beds and in the garages of pharmacy owners.
It costs dollar dollar bills
Beyond the obvious costs of printing (and the madness that is the cost of ink and toner) are the hidden, sneaky costs. I have colleagues who are renting space for their paper storage, throwing good money after bad for records to sit somewhere, month after month. Or, you’re spending your own time (money is time, remember) or paying an employee to sort and store. Bummer.
It’s bad for the environment
As our consumers become more ecologically conscious, it’s actually now a marketing opportunity to advertise yourself as a paper-free pharmacy. Mounting awareness around consumption and the planet now has an effect on shoppers’ choices. Pitting yourself as a forward thinking, innovative pharmacy that has an interest in the trees places you at the forefront of the green wave – and sets you apart in the mind of your customers.
It’s time consuming
Printing, storing, shredding, recycling – it all takes time. Time that could be far better spent on running your business. It’s also time consuming accessing your records when bookkeeping time springs upon you – location dependent, you have to go to where your documents are, file through the files, retrieve the ones you need, then put back.
It’s a fire hazard
Seems simple (and slightly catastrophic) but this is a real risk. Storing mountains of receipts, invoices and records in your attic or garage is a hotbed of risk, especially during Australian summers. And if you lose your records in a fire, flood or famine (hey, if there’s a famine, someone might eat your records) you lose them for good. Keeping your documents online, safely in a cloud, wipes your insurance for water and fire damaged records and ensures you can access anytime, anywhere.
There are so many simple steps you can take, one at a time, to free up your spare room and clean up your act.
Switch to E-Faxing
I believe the easiest change is stop paper faxing and switch to electronic faxing. Services like faxmate and efax allow you to receive faxes directly into your email inbox. You can then screen the faxes for junk (which most of them are!) or action the faxes that require attention. Existing phone numbers associated with the fax can be set to forward to the new electronic fax number and after a period of transition, the new fax number can be advertised and the old one removed. This will cut down on paper waste and remove the scrap pile of junk faxes that seems to grow bigger and bigger each week.
Email your customers
Most pharmacists print out a Consumer Medication Information (CMI) leaflet and hand it to the patient as they counsel them on their medicines. Why not ask for their email and send it to them digitally instead? This way they have a record that is harder to lose, you save on the paper and you also add to your email database – an excellent opportunity for marketing material and email newsletters that connect directly with your customer community. The CMI can be printed to PDF and attached to an email. You can even set an automatic reminder to email the patient again a week or two later to check in with how they are finding the medication – thus upping your customer service. Consumers expect this level of communication from other industries. Why not stand out from the crowd and embrace it in pharmacy?
Stop printing invoices
There is no need to print invoices these days. A number of suppliers use the PharmX gateway which downloads invoices directly to the pharmacy POS, where the amounts received can be reconciled to what is invoiced. For those that don’t use PharmX but send their invoice as a PDF via email, most PDF readers allow you to scribble on the file once it’s open. Staff are able to have the invoice open on an iPad or desktop and mark the stock off as if they had a pen and the paper invoice in front of them.
Store your invoices online
The Australian Tax Office (ATO) is happy with electronic copies of invoices as long as they represent a true copy of the original. There are many cloud storage solutions on the market these days, like Dropbox, Google Drive and BOX. Most are free for the limited amount of storage that a pharmacy needs and are password protected. You’re able to set up emails to automatically send invoices to your cloud storage as soon as they arrive in your inbox and once there, set up a virtual filing cabinet for easy access, retrieval and sorting.
It can take a few months to make sure you’re catching all the emails with invoices as they are coming through but once set-up, you have automated the process of storing files without a physical footprint. Remember; it’s alwaysadvisable to take regular, off-site back-ups of these records in case of a disaster!
Email staff payslips
We assume most pharmacies are doing this but I’m still surprised by the number that provide a physical payslip to their employees. Most payroll programs feature the ability to email payslips directly to employees but for those that don’t, you are still able to print the payslip to PDF and attach it to an email. Your employees expect this level of technology in their workplace. Embrace it!
Print your end of day summary to PDF, record the info in an online spreadsheet
Most pharmacies still print off the end of day report and record the daily takings on the printed sheet. Scrap this! Use the print to PDF function, record the details of the day’s transactions into an online spreadsheet (set-up in a similar way to a cashbook) and save the PDF to your cloud storage solution. No paper is printed but the information is still recorded for bookkeeping purposes.