MedInfoSys®: Frequently Asked Questions

The following questions are drawn from areas usually covered by RFP documents and more general enquiries. Do contact us if you cannot find an answer to your question on this page.

General

Is there a demo of MedInfoSys® available?

There are several online videos demonstrating core MedInfoSys® functionality – please contact us to learn more about these. We are also able to demo MedInfoSys® over the web, using WebEx (and depending on circumstances, we can instead come and demo at your site).

However, before we grant access to the videos or demo the system, we will want to have explored your situation and requirements in some more detail first, to maximise the value of your seeing the system.

How much does MedInfoSys® cost?

Cost varies with many factors – such as numbers of users, data migration, validation requirements, level of consultancy required, etc – and it is impossible to provide an accurate “standard quote”; discussing cost ahead of requirements is also somewhat counterproductive, as numbers don’t have much meaning without an understanding of what value is being sought and delivered.

SaaS

For a typical small-to-medium company, initial set-up costs would be in the region of £5,000-10,000. Monthly application rental is then banded by numbers of users, starting at £365pcm for 1-5 users; monthly hosting depends on your company’s requirements, but is likely to be in the region of £550pcm.

Installed

A typical quote consists of licences (including configurations) – both server and users – customisations, data migration, systems integration, project overhead, documentation, training and support (charged annually at 15% of licences, customisations, integrations and data migration).

We aim to make as many of these items as possible to be fixed price, but without exploring requirements with you, we are unable to quote for items such as customisation, data migration and systems integration.

A small, departmental solution with minimal data migration might cost as little as £25,000; a global solution, with full validation and significant data migration could cost upwards of 10+ times that figure – most installed systems will fall somewhere in the middle.

What reference customers do you have?

NIP obtains a majority of its business from industry reputation and word-of-mouth referrals. We are happy to provide reference customers at the appropriate stage of negotiations, but we are keen to respect our customers’ privacy and time constraints by withholding names until that stage.

About MedInfoSys® – Software as a Service (SaaS)

Is our data safe on third party servers?

Yes. Access to the system is via https only, and each customer’s instance of the system is fully independent. The servers are locked away and backups are taken every day. For more details – or to discuss specific concerns – please contact us.

Why use a remotely hosted service?

Because it can solve a number of problems quickly, cheaply and sensibly. It removes a burden and dependence on local IT, who are frequently overworked, outsourced, limited in what technologies they can support, or all three. As it is not a capital purchase, there is also a reduced need for procurement involvement (especially RFPs).

As it is an ‘out of the box’ solution, there is no need to run a long project – when you are ready to proceed (having worked through the necessary set-up questions), we can get you a system up and running in a few days. The system is always available and is geographically independent.

What are the terms?

These are defined in more detailed contract documents, but rental use of the application and the hosting of it are separately charged, quarterly (see above).

The agreement can be terminated with three months notice – there are no penalties; the customer simply stops paying. We can help with the decision about what to do next – the customer can either buy MedInfoSys® and host the entire application and data on their own servers or take the data back and migrate it into another system.

What advantages are there in SaaS vs outsourcing?

The customer owns the processes. It is possible to monitor and improve quality, be compliant in an inspection and make savings. The hosting service offers complete transparency and enables all parties to share information.

About MedInfoSys® – Functionality

What is the basic design of the system?

Whilst medical information is a well-recognised area, there is considerable variation within companies – workflow, therapeutic areas, regulatory interpretations, etc – that a system needs to support.

MedInfoSys® is designed to balance standardisation and flexibility. Recognising that systems should support users in the ways they need to work without imposing artificial constraints, each MedInfoSys® system consists of a varying selection of configurable modules and capabilities, such as enquiry logging, correspondence management, reporting, etc.

In this way, users get the benefit of a well-established system that has also been optimised for their specific requirements (there is a series of optional extras to cater for common, but less universal requirements).

Why is MedInfoSys® enquiry-centric?

Medical enquiries are the centre of all medical information processes and they are at the heart of MedInfoSys® (although data can be viewed in many different ways – by enquirer, by assignee, by country, by product, etc).

It is our experience that account-centric interfaces (i.e. CRM) hinder rather than help the enquiry-handling process. Workflow, correspondence and reports all flow from the logging of enquiries within medical information departments, and MedInfoSys®’ intuitive enquiry logging interface is one of its major advantages, automating and simplifying many aspects of data entry.

Any e-mail enquiries can be received straight into the system and letters and faxes can be scanned for entry. Many fields contain user-defined defaults and “picklists” (e.g. product, indications, therapeutic areas, enquiry classification lists) for increased speed and accuracy in logging information – especially when using MedInfoSys® to log a telephone enquiry.

All correspondence related to an enquiry is stored with that enquiry.

What does MedInfoSys® offer that generic CRM packages don't?

Companies are looking to integrate medical information more closely with other strategic and operational goals, coordinating their approach to customer service, and integrating with wider sales processes and systems.

It is therefore not surprising that medical information is often subsumed into generic CRM software packages (sadly, often against users’ wishes), but this decision ignores two things:

  • The specialist requirements of medical information
  • The fact that a specialist system (such as MedInfoSys®) can, and should, integrate with third party systems

Generic CRM tools are not generally readily-adaptable to specific medical-enquiry processes and data. Viewing data from an account perspective can be important, but not at the expense of the enquiry-centric interface that medical information professionals need.

Various clients have told us that CRM systems have been found by users to be hard to use, unstable and slow, with various key functionality (e.g. letter production, searching, report-generation, e-mail notification) either missing, or hard and expensive to implement.

CRM solutions are excellent for the areas where they are designed to be used, but medical information is not one of them.

MedInfoSys® can integrate with such tools to extract and publish information to them, and thus offers the best of both worlds: a specialist system, optimised for users, that seamlessly slots into wider processes and systems.

How much configuration is needed in a typical deployment?

MedInfoSys® is a highly-configurable system:

  • Many features are optional and can be turned on or off to suit requirements and budget
  • Even with core features, many system terms and prompts can be configured
  • Although the system is supplied with default picklist values, these can be configured to suit company terminology and values

To get going quickly, some customers prefer to start with the default system and values; others want to explore options upfront. We would explore the advantages and drawbacks to both approaches before fixing a price and delivery schedule with you.

How does MedInfoSys® produce and manage correspondence?

In addition to verbal answers, MedInfoSys® allows users to respond to enquiries via customised letter and fax templates (that will print out on corporate stationery for sending) when a written response is required.

Letters can also be sent to enquirers via e-mail and – if you have a fax gateway, and enable this option in the system – it is possible to send faxes electronically, too. ( Read more… ).

Is MedInfoSys® compliant with 21 CFR Part 11? Does it maintain an audit trail?

MedInfoSys® is fully-validated and contains all the functionality necessary to comply with 21 CFR Part 11 (and other regulatory stipulations).

However, no solution is instantly certifiable as compliant with any regulation or validation as this depends on three things:

  • How the system code was developed and then maintained (which NIP is responsible for)

  • How the system is managed (which will depend on the customers’ SOPs, etc, when the system is installed on customer servers)
  • How users are trained and how the system is used (which depends on the customer)

Accordingly, achieving compliance is a partnership between NIP and the customer.

How are roles handled in the system?

MedInfoSys® is designed to ensure that users only see the information they are allowed to see (in part, this is also a usability concern, to make information relevant), and that they have the correct permissions to use the system.

User records are controlled by designated administrators (although these administrators would, in turn, be controlled by a customer’s SOPs) and the system can also enforce password expiry and renewal (a common timeframe being every 3 months).

Users are usually categorised by a combination of country and/or department (for data protection and workflow reasons), with varying levels of permissions to ensure that only certain individuals can see and/or change certain records. These permissions are usually based on a matrix of reader, editor and administrator.

SOPs would govern the creation of new users, and any changes in permissions.

For a typical system, there will be:

  • Content providers (medical information staff logging and responding to enquiries and also maintaining reference materials)
  • System administrators
  • General readers (e.g. managers)

Each of these roles contains unique access rights and privileges, which are reflected in the system menu and in the ability to create/edit documents. It is also possible to restrict access such that, for example, a representative may only see enquiries they have made, whilst a product manager may only see enquiries for their product.

Can legacy data be imported into MedInfoSys®?

Most of the material needed to populate MedInfoSys® already exists in other systems – reference materials, product lists, past enquiries, etc. It is therefore essential that this information can be imported into MedInfoSys® and NIP have over 15 years’ experience in system migration and integration. (Read more…)

What reports come as part of the system? Do you integrate with reporting tools?

MedInfoSys® contains a number of standard reports which enable e.g. monthly, quarterly and yearly analysis of enquiries by product, staff member, time taken, category, etc, analysis of reference document usage, etc.

Many of the reports will display a dynamic chart of the results that can be printed or saved as a picture for use in other documents (e.g. Word). If companies wish to create their own charts, there is a utility that exports selected data in standard format to Excel ( Read more… ).

Can MedInfoSys® integrate with our corporate IT infrastructure?

Yes. MedInfoSys® uses standard database and open source web technology software, which is closely aligned with most corporate IT standards and policies.

When installed on customer servers, IT staff should not require any additional skills transfer or training to support MedInfoSys®. Read more below about the technical aspects of the system.

About MedInfoSys® – Technical

How has the system been developed? To what standards? Using which methodology?

MedInfoSys® has evolved over 20 years of learning about customer requirements and how to best meet them. It is now a highly mature and stable core application. In general, NIP aims to balance quality concerns with the need to innovate and be responsive to customers’ needs./p>

What technology is MedInfoSys® written in?

MedInfoSys® is written in Python, an open source advanced object-oriented language. See http://www.python.org. Python is a clear and powerful object-oriented programming language, comparable to Perl, Tcl, Scheme, or Java, used by many web-based solution providers, including Google.

What is the basic architecture of the system?

MedInfoSys® consists of a three-tier web-based architecture: a thin client (web browser) communicating with a web application server, which accesses a database server.

The data held within the MedInfoSys® application server – enquiries, reference documents, Q&As, reps lists, product lists, etc – are stored or referenced within the Oracle database, and are accessed via a web browser and via Microsoft Word.

For full functionality, MedInfoSys® is integrated into the corporate e-mail/fax network (via SMTP/IMAP).

What software and hardware requirements are there for using MedInfoSys®?

MedInfoSys® is optimised for responsiveness, flexibility and ease of maintenance at both the server and client level.

On the client side, MedInfoSys® requires only standard software (Windows 7+, etc, Internet Explorer 9+ and Microsoft Word 2007+). Because no additional or proprietary software is required on client PCs, it is very quick and easy to provide access to individual users, mobile workers, and departments across international boundaries.

Database servers supported: Oracle 11g

Web application servers supported: Apache 2.

Web application server operating systems supported: Windows 2008 Server

For the creation and maintenance of reference documents and the creation of enquiry responses, MedInfoSys® launches MS Word from within IE, which requires IE to be configured to allow ActiveX components to be loaded. This may require a change to existing IE settings.

Post-Deployment

How much training is needed to use MedInfoSys®?

Training is critical for the application to maximise the benefits it can provide:

  • Increasing departmental effectiveness from launch date
  • Giving added profile and credibility to launch of an important system
  • Reducing silly and systematic operational mistakes
  • Promoting team co-operation
  • Reducing low-level support calls

A course would typically be a day long, but it depends upon the access levels and responsibilities of the users concerned. Medical Information and customer service staff would need a day. Managers and administrators could be a ½ day as they will not be expected to perform all tasks.

A typical way of managing training is to adopt the “train the trainer” approach.