Managing inventory is a vital part of any pharmacy operation. It helps cut costs, reduce waste, and meet regulatory requirements.
Using the Visual Method, staff members visually scan and eyeball inventory levels to spot when items need reordering. Often, these reorders are forgotten or ignored until it’s too late.
Know Your Inventory
Accurate on-hand quantities are essential if your pharmacy automates inventory management, uses a manual process, or somewhere between. Deducting portions as prescriptions are dispensed, adding back in when claims are reversed, and accounting for National Drug Code (NDC) changes and shortages can all throw off stock counts.
Identifying and locating specific batches of medication quickly makes removing inventory from the shelf easier for reasons like expiration or a recall. Lot tracking also helps pharmacies practice first-in, first-out dispensing by ensuring the oldest stock is dispensed before the next batch arrives.
Offer pharmacy technicians small rewards to help them find slow-moving or about-to-expire medications that could be sold back to the wholesaler or to a service that buys open bottles of drugs at reduced prices. Then, do a regular inventory check to better account for dispensing trends and keep inventory levels in the ideal range.
Identify Expired Drugs
The FDA requires expiration dates on medications, and pharmacy staff must regularly spot and remove expired drugs from stock. Some drugs degrade quickly after the date stamped on a bottle, including insulin and oral nitroglycerin, while others are more stable.
Techs should follow disposal directions on labels or look for local take-back programs. Alternatively, for some prescription drugs—especially opioids—mixing inedible substances such as coffee grounds or kitty litter can help make them less attractive to anyone trying to steal or abuse them.
Pharmacy technicians can use electronic pharmacy systems to send out alerts and text messages to patients well before their prescriptions are due to expire and enable them to let the pharmacist know they need a refill by responding to the letter. This improves practice management and patient engagement and can help ensure that pharmacies always have a supply of required medication.
Identify High-Risk Drugs
Certain medications require more attention than others in terms of dispensing and stocking. ISMP classifies high-risk drugs as those that may cause more significant patient harm in the event of an error. These drugs include anticoagulants, antipsychotics, oral hypoglycaemic agents and sedatives, insulin, chemotherapy medications, and opioids.
Medication safety leaders like Chris Manfuso can proactively reduce errors in these high-risk medication classes by training hospital staff on adequately storing, handling, and dispensing those medications. In addition, implementing technology solutions that offer closed-loop reconciliation of items from wholesaler to bedside provides greater visibility into inventory management for these drugs.
Managing an accurate and efficient pharmacy goes far beyond counting bottles. Having the right mix of technicians on board who are comfortable with and embrace technology can help your hospital avoid costly overstocks and shortages.
Review Sales Trends
Managing medication supply levels is one of the top challenges in every pharmacy operation. With staff stretched thin, keeping an eye on inventory quickly slips out of the spotlight — only to be brought back into focus when supplies fall short or the replenishment lead time is too long.
It’s essential to review sales trends and adjust stock order quantities accordingly. For example, pharmacies must ensure enough hay fever medications in spring and summer while increasing their cold and flu medicines inventory in autumn and winter.
The best way to track these trends is with advanced analytics. These tools combine purchase data with utilization and automation data to provide a complete picture of the medication supply, decreasing opportunities for human error and providing a clear path forward.
Automate Inventory Management
Inventory management aims to cut costs, reduce waste, and keep patients safe. Managing inventory well is an integral part of a hospital’s operations, but it requires a combination of knowledge, skills, and technology to ensure success.
Modern medication inventory management solutions offer both automation and visibility. They allow you to track all warehouses and stock levels in real-time – eliminating the need for manual counts.
A sound inventory management system also allows you to spot and react to sales trends – for example; there may be a seasonal increase in demand for OTC hay fever or cold and flu medications. This insight enables you to manage inventory levels better, adjust order quantities, and improve efficiency. The resulting savings can be significant.