WebGate Consulting and InTheNet Digitize Billing for Swiss Pharmacies Using AWS
Many pharmacies in Switzerland use third-party fiduciary accounting services and as a result need to send paper invoices received from their suppliers to those organizations. Pharmacies also need to maintain an archive of these invoices. This process is time-consuming and risks introducing errors for both the pharmacies and the fiduciaries. To solve this problem, Swiss IT consultancy InTheNet AG built a service that digitizes the document exchange and creates an indexed online archive of the invoices. The service is built on AWS and designed by AWS Partner WebGate Consulting AG.
Struggling with a Manual System and Paper-Based Archives
For Swiss pharmacies the task of reporting daily revenue to fiduciaries is relatively simple because data is tabulated automatically by digital point-of-sale devices. However, this is not the case for outgoing payments for goods or services supplied to the pharmacies, because most invoices received by small and medium-sized businesses in Switzerland are paper-based and not digital.
As a result, pharmacies send copies of these invoices to their fiduciaries using the postal service. When the paper invoices arrive, the fiduciary must manually extract data from them and enter it into an accounting system. This process takes several days. In addition, pharmacies are legally required to keep copies of invoices for 10 years.
Swiss IT consultancy InTheNet wanted to create a more stable and optimized workflow for sending invoices from pharmacies to fiduciaries that would reduce the potential for human error, while also creating indexed and searchable online digital archives of the invoices.
InTheNet chose to build the system in the cloud and turned to AWS Partner WebGate to act as its technical partner. The two companies had previously worked together on another successful project during the COVID-19 pandemic that collected 100,000 test results per month from Swiss medical centers.
For WebGate, the choice of cloud provider was easy. “AWS is around 2 years or even 3 years ahead of the competition,” says Roman Weber, chief executive officer CEO at WebGate Consulting. “It was the natural choice.”
AWS is around 2 years or even 3 years ahead of the competition. It was the natural choice.”
CEO, WebGate Consulting
Digitizing and Automating Workflow and Record Keeping
Work on the project began in late 2022, and WebGate built the system that handles the exchange of invoices between pharmacies and their fiduciaries in just 2 weeks. It implemented the system in around 2 months, which included the time needed for internal testing by InTheNet.
Swiss pharmacies typically send around 20–40 invoices per week to their fiduciaries. Using InTheNet’s service, a pharmacy no longer needs to make copies of invoices before sending them via courier or the postal service to its fiduciary, and then filing the invoice in a physical archive. Instead, the pharmacy only needs to scan the invoice. The service then handles all other processing and record keeping required by the pharmacy.
The service automatically sends the digitized invoice to the pharmacist’s fiduciary. The fiduciary does not need to manually extract data from the invoice because the service automatically enters the data into its accounting system. The service then adds the invoice to an indexed digital archive that the pharmacy and the fiduciary can search online.
Data is extracted from the invoice scans using Amazon Textract, which automatically extracts data from any document. The data is entered into accounting systems using API interfaces. Integration with those systems is simple. “Every grown-up accounting system has an API for data input that is very easy to use,” says Weber. For example, the service has been integrated with the Abacus accounting software, which is widely used in Switzerland. However, if a fiduciary’s accounting system does not offer such an interface, data can instead be entered by simple drag-and-drop operations.
Another benefit is that all data is stored on AWS data centers in Switzerland. “Swiss businesses like the cloud, but want their data kept in Switzerland,” says Weber. “Some invoices sent to Swiss pharmacies are not paper-based but are sent as attachments to emails.”
Weber estimates that these account for around 15 percent of all invoices, but says this is growing. Pharmacies are only required to forward these emails to an email address provided by the InTheNet service. “The rest of the process is exactly the same,” he says.
Delivering Multiple Benefits to Pharmacies and Fiduciaries
InTheNet’s service eliminates the labor of copying and posting invoices to fiduciaries and the risk of errors in that manual process. It also eliminates the requirement to store invoices in physical archives. By speeding the delivery of invoices to fiduciaries, the service also provides pharmacies with an up-to-date view of their finances and can make it easier for them to pay their suppliers more quickly. Previously, processing invoices using existing systems took weeks—the InTheNet service reduces this to 1–2 days.
Pharmacies using the service no longer need to spend time maintaining paper archives of invoices, or to provide physical storage space for those archives. The service also makes accessing and searching invoices significantly faster.
InTheNet’s service is equally valuable to fiduciaries. It makes the services that fiduciaries offer to pharmacies more attractive, helping to generate more business. The service also reduces costs for fiduciaries—by eliminating manual data entry and its associated risk of errors, it saves around 8 hours of labor per week. In addition, the indexed digital archives streamline workflows and reduce labor costs significantly if invoices need to be accessed during audits, or when annual financial statements are created.
WebGate understood exactly what we wanted and took care of all the details.”
Gaining High Scalability to Meet Demand Using Serverless Computing
InTheNet’s service needed to be highly scalable to meet demand, so WebGate recommended using AWS serverless technology. The system uses AWS Lambda to run code without thinking about servers or operating systems, making application development fast and simple.
Serverless technologies feature automatic scaling, built-in high availability, and a pay-for-use billing model to increase agility and optimize costs as the platform automatically scales up or down to meet changing demand. This protects the system against downtime or degradation during spikes in traffic.
AWS Lambda also eliminates infrastructure management tasks like capacity provisioning and patching, and reduces costs by eliminating the need for InTheNet to license server operating system software. “Serverless is the future,” says Weber.
InTheNet is based in Berne, Switzerland, and is an IT and business consultant. The company also advises customers on the management of processes and IT services.
AWS Services Used
- Scalability and high performance
- Service implemented within 2 months
- Serverless computing with no OS licensing costs
- Data storage in Switzerland
About the AWS Partner WebGate
Based in Dietikon, Switzerland, and established in 2001, WebGate Consulting is a total solution ebusiness provider. WebGate’s expertise includes cloud management, application development, DevOps, end-point management, security testing, and client-server collaboration software. With partnerships in Switzerland and overseas, the company draws on a network of more than 100 specialists, including project managers, business analysts, system architects, senior developers, and engineers.
Published June 2023