The Big 3 Distributors: Technology


McKesson believes that the rapid adoption of 2D barcodes on unit-level packaging and RFID on cases and pallets, combined with the use of ePedigrees by all members of the supply chain, will aid the integrity of the pharma distribution network. "We'll continue to play a leadership role in the development and implementation of advanced track-and-trace standards," Figueroa says.

McKesson also applies technology solutions to its business operations. "We are constantly working on new ways to improve our processes and systems," says Figueroa. "As a result of our focus on six-sigma, customers benefit from a 99.998 percent accuracy rate, freeing pharmacy staff to provide more and better patient care."

Externally, technology sales are likely to be McKesson's biggest growth area over the next four years, says Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. analyst Helene Wolk. The company had $3.1 billion in technology sales last year, according to Bloomberg. McKesson VP Matthew Zubiller notes that even as insurers make recession-minded IT budget cuts, they're working to automate as many administrative functions as they can. That's where McKesson comes in.

Pera at ASB sees evolutionary technology issues in communication. "The issue is how we get retailers to optimize these technologies while remaining relevant to their patients' care and optimizing the pharmaceutical care. It's hard for them to step back and manage because there is so much they're doing."

The distributor provides business coaching services to provide "another set of eyes to look at the business" and aid in tech implementations.

Cardinal is using technology to reach out to independent pharmacies. At an annual event in July, the distributor detailed enhancements to its support and IT tools, Pharmaceutical Commerce reports. The company said also that it's enhancing Order Express, its online ordering system, and an automated inventory-management system. The Source Generics pricing and ordering system is being upgraded, too.

The Big 3 Distributors: Technology