Pharmaceutical maker palms off the paper chase

Local pharmaceutical group Merck Sharp & Dohme has teamed up with wireless application provider Freedom Technologies to develop a Palm-based solution for sales representatives in 15 countries.

The local offshoot of global pharmaceutical giant Merck Inc, MSD developed a paper-based call reporting system (CRS) eight years ago, which enabled mobile sales representatives to file information about customers they visited. Subsequently, MSD's subsidiary siblings adopted the system in 15 countries.

The latest initiative is the migration from a paper-based to a Palm-based call reporting system, according to Michele Farr, support manager for the CRS application at MSD Australia, who said the move will greatly improve the front-end business practices of the representatives using the system.

Craig Lynch, IS manager for MSD Australia, said that the decision to move from paper to Palm was instigated by a need to meet business rules associated with data purity and improved workflow at the sales rep level.

"Our sales representatives spend most of their time out of the office meeting between eight and 16 doctors a day and need to effectively and efficiently record the result of each meeting. The paper-based system burdened the sales representatives and affected the timeliness and quality of the information recorded," he said.

"Moving to a handheld-based solution will greatly improve the sales representative's ability to capture relevant information at the point of contact, thus removing the need for data to be entered at a later time," he said.

Farr also added that knowledge sharing was an important aspect of the move to handheld solutions.

"One of the main things was to provide a sharing of information across the field, because a lot of representatives will visit the same doctor from an organisation detailing different products, and we really needed to share what the message was from each of the representatives," she said.

MSD is just finishing the final testing of the application, and is looking to launch its first pilot within the next six to eight weeks. However, both Farr and Lynch believe the application users system greet it enthusiastically.

Farr said the CRS applications users had already shown interest in the cost-saving benefits of the handheld system. Paper and postage costs will be reduced dramatically. In addition, the pilot site operators believe the value to the business in terms of reliability of information and increased number of calls per day will also translate into dollar benefits, with a measurable return on investment expected.

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