As someone who works with apps daily, researching, reading, testing and writing about them, I sometimes lose sight of what’s important: apps are personal, customizable, and adaptable. Your choice of apps on your device, the different settings you pick to personalize them, and how and when you use them remains a very individually-oriented experience.
Then I remember Todoist, and how I took a seemingly simple task management app and transformed it into the most efficient inventory and order system for my pharmacy. The adaptation to my needs is so complete that I forget, almost all the time, that this was a task app to begin with. Below is my story with Todoist, told as a reminder that when you take a powerful app and use your imagination a little, you can make it work any way you want it to.
During my training and my jobs, all the pharmacies I worked at used an antiquated system of pen and paper to manage their orders. We don’t fill prescriptions manually in Lebanon, we buy pre-filled boxes and sell them as such, so when the inventory is low, we need to order new boxes.
That’s the premise, but every pharmacist I know writes down what he needs to order on a small notebook, marks it when he orders it and scratches it when it arrives. It’s simple enough until you start adding different suppliers into the mix, out of stock drugs that even the supplier doesn’t have, returns and credit notes, and more.
Every other pharmacy writes down drug orders like this: it’s an inefficient system.
When I opened my pharmacy, I knew I needed an efficient digital management system, that I can use from my iMac or my Android phone. It struck me that I could consider it similarly to task management and that’s how I ended up using Todoist.
How I Adapted Todoist to My Needs
Drugs I need to order are individual tasks. Marking them as done means I ordered them, and deleting them from the Completed list means they were delivered. It’s a 3-step system that helps me quickly see the status of every order without having to shuffle through pages of handwritten notes, looking for one particular medicine.
Suppliers became labels, and Todoist makes it dead easy to assign a label to any task when you add it. So for example, if I type “Seretide 500 @abela”, Todoist will add Seretide 500 to my tasks and assign the Abela supplier label to it. I have even added each supplier’s phone number, extension if needed and my pharmacy’s code to their title. That way, when I click on any label in Todoist, I can quickly place a phone call, and see which drugs I need to order. It’s elegantly efficient.
Looks at all my supplier labels and their phones numbers! (left) and adding a new drug to order is quite simple (right)
More Structure: Priorities and Projects
One of the issues we have to deal with constantly is drugs running out of stock in the country. Normally, with the paper system, pharmacists would highlight these, try to come back to them later, sometimes forget about them, and other times have to comb through dozens of past pages to write down the out of stock drugs on a separate paper they keep. It’s inefficient at best, and the main reason I decided to look for a digital alternative.
With Todoist Priorities, I can easily mark a task as Priority 1 in red to visually differentiate the out of stock drugs. Along with the drug’s name and the supplier, the information never gets lost or forgotten, even after several weeks of supply drought.
As for projects, I recently started a separate Return project that helps me manually keep track of all the expired drugs I returned to the suppliers and that still await a credit note or replacement item. I set it as a separate project because I didn’t want it to clog up my order system, but I still apply the same labels to it for each supplier.
The upside of both is that when I’m on the phone or meeting with a supplier, I simply click on their label and I have everything I need in front of me: drugs I need to order, out of stock drugs that I need to inquire on, and returns I need to remind them about. The pen and paper system doesn’t even come close to 10% of this degree of efficiency.
Out of stock drugs are always on the top of my list (left) and clicking on a supplier brings everything I need when I contact them (right)
There’s a lot more to my usage of Todoist:
Filters help me sift through some specific order states.
Find in Page on the browser lets me quickly see if I already added a drug or if it’s out of stock.
I can add a person’s name and phone number when typing a new task, so when I’m honoring an on-demand medicine request, I have an easy way to call the person to notify them that the drug is now available for pickup.
I even use it as a traditional task manager, with a separate project dedicated to things I need to get done.
Whenever I receive the Skinoma, I know who to call (left) and I still use Todoist as a regular to-do and note app (right)
Beyond an App’s Original Purpose
After using Todoist for a couple of hours a year ago, and being impressed with the Google+ sign in and its vast feature set, I decided to buy the Premium subscription and I’ll be renewing it for several years to come. Todoist is both minimal and powerful, it syncs well across my devices and is full of the important features that I need — and even more that I haven’t used yet, like subprojects or subtasks. And with the new 2.0 update, it became more beautiful to look at and more efficient to use.
Todoist is the magic that happens behind my pharmacy’s counter.
As I said at the beginning, Todoist is just one example of an impressive app that you can adapt to your needs with a little imagination. It’s a reminder that apps are personal, so if you have another example of an app you morphed to fit your needs, or that you use for a completely different purpose than its intended one, leave a comment with your story.