by George Nott

CIO50 2018 #14: Ryan Klose, National Pharmacies

Nov 22, 2018
Technology Industry

‘Doctor Google’, as it is offered referred to by GPs, is often the first thing people turn to when they are not feeling quite right.

The ability for people to search for their symptoms online is a positive thing, but the information on the internet is not always accurate, up to date or relevant. In some cases it can leave people feeling worse.

“Everyone is busier today, the internet has become a question and answer for health conditions, and people are more informed on preventative health and diagnosing for self-treatments,” says Ryan Klose, executive general manager, corporate at National Pharmacies.

“We are witnessing consumers becoming more aware of choices on health conditions and treatments hellip; often self-diagnosing incorrectly thanks to the unregulated information found on the internet,” Klose adds.

Around five years ago National Pharmacies – a mutual membership organisation and retail pharmacy group – began responding to the disruption with a new vision which put the emphasis on the consumer and trying to “empower them not only inside our stores but outside our stores as well,” Klose says.

The aim was to navigate the perfect storm of significant changes facing the 350,000-strong membership organisation; including government reforms, economic conditions, retail confidence, emerging technologies, and more informed consumers who are spoilt for choice.

Having already engineered several IT platforms, transitioned to cloud, and established a library of adaptive APIs in business and data interactions between the consumer, the company’s backend systems, and third-party providers – work over the last year has been focused on the customer app.

The app – available on AppStore and PlayStore – is packed with features to not only help customers do more themselves – such as the ability to remotely conduct screenings and assessments in a controlled and clinical-like manner – wherever is convenient, but also provide real-time advice and assistance.

It also features a chatbot programmed to appear like a Pharmacist, dubbed AskBob, which can step patients through a range of self-assessments and screenings in the comfort of their home or hotel.

“Members and patients taking new medications, or who had a recent operation, or who are undertaking a clinical weight management program, or testing for diabetes for example – require monitoring and check-ups with the GP or pharmacist,” Klose explains.

“The app provides members the ability to subscribe, from a list of self-assessments and screening tests that are designed to be performed consultative-safe (in the home, at work, in travel),” he adds.

The app is able to connect with selective health wearables and IoT devices – including weight scales; blood pressure, blood glucose, pulse, and body temperature readers; and air temperature, pollen and air quality sensors – which are often provided or recommended by pharmacists.

“Uniquely, to assure our test data is accurately sourced, AskBob will step patients through the connecting or health IoT and wearable device technologies if available. Importantly, the app also alerts if devices need to be re-calibration or are not being operated correctly, to avoid inconsistent or voiding test data,” Klose says.

“Comprehensive reports and alerts are generated and (through secure invitation) can be subscribed by carers, family members or health professionals if needed,” he adds.

Importantly, AskBob was given a personality, courtesy of National Pharmacies’ in-store teams.

“A key learning for us was how to detach the human element from the service provided without losing that trusted and care-for-me feeling as part of that relationship experience,” Klose says.

“It was through observing our own pharmacists in action, and their emotional human touch when interacting with a patient, that we learned that our delivery of any content, voice or response needed to give AskBob a personality with this same relationship experience,” he adds.

Real magic

Klose has established a “modern-thinking IT management team, committed to advancing latest technologies and innovating to overcome technical barriers” made up of teams who are “continuously developed with new skills and techniqueshellip; each becoming more multi-disciplined in IT”.

They deliver, as Klose puts it: “tools that work”.

“In the quest to meet the demands of business strategy, deliver initiatives for peers quickly, or satisfy the operational service levels of the organisation – it comes down to ‘does it work’. Deliver what they pay for. No one ever asked for a broken solution,” Klose says.

The transformation of the organisation has been and continues to be driven by its people, he adds.

“The real magic in successfully transforming an organisation comes from drawing and fostering energy from a diversity of our people, their views and saying thank you to their ideas,” Klose says.