The word “innovation” gets tossed around so much these days that we almost forget its meaning—the introduction of new and different ideas for out-of-the-box problem solving that have meaningful impacts. Yet, innovation is different in every industry, and it’s essential in a field as complex as 340B.
To get a handle on it, we sat down with healthcare technology veteran Andrew Stevenson, VP of Product Strategy and Business Development, and 340B industry expert Christy Bryant, VP, Customer Service & Regulatory Affairs at Macro Helix, a third-party administrator that facilitates the 340B programs of more than 900 covered entities as well as hospital-owned and retail pharmacies. Responsible for supporting customer relationships, and driving the execution of critical innovation programs with Macro Helix’s customers, they have valuable insights to share for a 340B community faced with new challenges almost daily.
In a nutshell, what is Macro Helix? How do you help customers succeed with 340B?
Christy Bryant: We help healthcare entities maximize their 340B program participation by leveraging our 340B expertise, partnering approach and undying focus on compliance and security to continue to build cutting-edge, user-centered software solutions and services. Our technology helps customers navigate the operational, functional, and regulatory complexities of 340B. We uncomplicate the complicated for our customers.
But we’re more than 340B experts: We provide some of the industry’s most innovative software solutions coupled with years of real-world experience. Our deep bench of experts works side-by-side with customers to develop a true partnership that helps deliver improved financial performance and operational efficiencies.
We have the agility and foresight of a tech startup, which is still in Macro Helix’s DNA, yet we have decades of experience at our fingertips, along with the resources of McKesson, our parent company. As part of McKesson’s Pharmaceutical Technology and Innovation Group (PTIG), we’re collaborating with all technology and customer-facing businesses – and using an entrepreneurial mindset – to identify, design and solve problems for the greater pharmacy ecosystem.
Let’s talk process: How do you collect the intelligence that lets your customers thrive?
Andrew Stevenson: Our process begins with the close relationships that we build with our customers. We gather intelligence through one-on-one conversations and voice-of-customer interviews, as well as our advisory boards, and support and audit surveys. We connect with stakeholders at industry events, conduct consumer market research, and tap our customers’ in-house expertise and experience to see what they need and how we can help.
With an eye to the future, we keep our finger on the pulse of 340B industry journals and publications and professional associations. We tap the knowledge of pharmacy subject matter experts and stay up-to-the-minute on regulatory and policy issues so we can anticipate what is coming down the pike that will affect our customers.
Innovation: What does that word mean to Macro Helix?
Andrew Stevenson: For Macro Helix, innovation starts with listening to our customers and stakeholders, both internal and external, to understand the problems or challenges they have in common while doing their job. We then think about ‘how we might’ approach the key challenges and prototype solutions for iterative testing. Ultimately, we want to reduce friction using technology so they can perform a task effectively with less effort and be able to focus time and energy on more important opportunities to directly improve patient care.
The ultimate solution could be either a new product or a feature within the solution. 340B ArchitectSM is our core product for covered entities and their contract pharmacy network, and we’re continually upgrading it by frequently adding advanced features; it is our foundation. As for new products, we developed 340B Central SplitSM to help our health system customers with inventory management. 340B RxCorrelateSM helps customers identify prescriptions that are being referred to providers outside their facility that may be 340B eligible. Soon, we’ll unveil two new products that leverage advanced data and analytics to optimize 340B performance and protect the integrity of the 340B program. We also innovate internally—for example, by delivering a solution to our Support team that allows them to respond to customer inquiries with greater speed and efficiency.
Why should the 340B community care about innovation?
Christy Bryant: Successful exploitation of new ideas is crucial to a business being able to improve its processes, and to bring new and improved products and services to market to meet the current and future needs of their customers. That’s as true in the 340B industry as it is anywhere else in today’s world. 340B stakeholders understand the complexity of the program, so partnering with an innovative organization that can translate and manage those intricacies is critical.
What innovations have you unveiled, and how do they give your customers a competitive edge?
Andrew Stevenson: At Macro Helix, we’re always reinvesting in our business to keep moving the needle forward. We’ve moved our software to a secure, cloud-based environment requiring multi-factor user authentication, and we continue to focus on foundational work, transitioning from “old code” to “structured code” – including new software code for prescriber lists, drug catalogs, retail status changes, and more – while advancing three compliance initiatives. This foundational work also directly supports our investments in new technology in a far more robust and scalable architecture that allows us to continuously modernize the user experience and simplify system-wide changes, optimize 340B program performance, analyze data for customers, and simplify inventory management.
Innovation is baked into the culture at Macro Helix. On the operations side, our monthly software release schedule is now the norm, rather than a ‘wait-for-it, big bang’ event. We have an internal product steering committee and an external Customer Advisory Board, as well as Innovation Panel teams that actively direct the enhancement of our current products and push them to the next level. We even have PTIG Innovation Days to foster out-of-the-box thinking within our team at Macro Helix as well as across all of PTIG’s technology business capabilities. Finally, PTIG’s “Echelon” open-innovation process has led to approvals and investments in many areas of concern to our customers, such as adherence, inventory management, and contract pharmacy issues.
What is Macro Helix’s secret sauce: How do you differ from other TPAs and why should customers partner with you?
Christy Bryant: Our secret sauce is and has always been our people. We’re a team of experts that’s committed to being with you every step of the way. Customers come to us because we equip them with effective tools to achieve compliance, drive their financial performance, and help them become more efficient—and those bottom-line benefits go a long way in today’s world of value-based healthcare. But at the end of the day, we’re a relationship-focused business. 340B is not easy to navigate or manage, and we guide our customers through it, delivering our solutions with a human touch.
Our motto is still “Together, we got this,” because with us, you get more than a resource. You get a partner that you can trust.
In the evolving 340B space, how can we solve for both the unmet needs of today and the anticipated needs of tomorrow?
Andrew Stevenson: For us, it’s about actively listening and empathizing with our customers, and enabling and keeping up a cadence of constant feedback from our customers at every level and in every department of the company – including our General Manager, Alex Hennum. Insights from our customers are the key source of our ideas for day-to-day improvements that allow us to take the next best step towards innovation. Together we will learn-by-doing, improve, and have a positive, meaningful impact.
We follow our customers’ lead, evolving our products and services to fit their needs – whether they represent a large health system or a lone covered entity. We’re always asking: What’s working, what’s not working, and what’s coming around the corner? We have to be quick on the draw by keeping up with industry changes, particularly regulatory changes. We’re committed to not missing a beat for our customers, and ultimately, for the patients that depend on us all to get the best possible care.
For more information, please reach out to Support@MacroHelix.com.