A pharmacy’s first priority is taking care of their patients and getting them the prescription drugs they need. That means having the items they need whenever they walk through your door.
It sounds like common sense. But pharmacy professionals understand the many challenges to keeping the right products for their patients on hand: supply chain issues, sudden demand for a product and unexpected stock shortages are just a few obstacles.
In this blog post, I’ll show you how to manage procurement so you can anticipate these issues. With these strategies and solutions in place, your patients won’t even be aware of the challenges “behind the scenes.” First, let’s look at the relationship between procurement and patients.
Gauge the Impact
Patients expect to visit their pharmacy, pick up their medication and get on with their day. Failing to provide their medication—even once—can affect their medical treatment, their trust in you as a patient and their consumer confidence.
Even with the increasing numbers of patients that pharmacies must serve (and amidst rising staff shortages), each patient wants to know their pharmacy is still focused on their individual needs. They shouldn't see the business side of your responsibilities. That means avoiding a scenario where you’re describing supply chain issues or admitting to a manual error.
Those situations also make work harder for your staff. We joined the pharmacy industry to serve people. Failing to supply the drugs they need is disappointing enough. Taking extra time to explain what happened, work around it, and try to keep that patient coming back brings on even more work and stress.
Stop Relying on Inefficient Practices
Even a small retail pharmacy has to track hundreds of patients with unique prescriptions, health needs and product preferences coming in regularly. You’ll need to organize when to reorder specific products. And if you’re a growing pharmacy, you’ll gain even more patients over time.
Many pharmacies may rely on constant stock checks, physical inventory counts or software jerry-rigged to manage pharmacy inventory. But these manual solutions aren’t designed for pharmacy inventory management. They leave too much up to users who are already busy serving patients and handling other core pharmacy tasks.
In short, managing that recurring inventory is too much for a single staff member or manual processes. And it’s a time-consuming, tedious process. No one went into the pharmacy industry to do inventory; we’re there to serve people.
A best-in-class solution that integrates purchasing and inventory management will enhance your processes so you can always have the right products on hand and get back to more important tasks.
Start With Sound Inventory Management
Most pharmacy patients have chronic health needs that require them to keep using, and purchasing, the same product. That means most pharmacies’ business comes from patients regularly using maintenance medications. Of course, you’ll fill one-off prescriptions for non-chronic medical issues or seasonal illnesses. Still, most of a pharmacy’s stock consists of specific items to regularly keep in stock—for example, monthly or every 90 days—so they can keep filling the same prescriptions.
You can anticipate what you need on your shelves, when you need it and how much needs to be on hand. That starts with managing inventory, so you have the products on hand in the first place (inventory) and then purchasing products on time, ideally as soon as inventory gets too low (and not waiting until it runs out).
The right automated pharmacy inventory management system helps you track those myriad patient needs and ensures the correct items are in stock and ordered on time.
You can use an automated solution to tie replenishment to inventory, so the system automatically creates orders based on min/max quantities that you program. You’ll ensure you don't go below a specific amount—which you determine and program—and that medication actually gets ordered on time for your pharmacy to prepare for dispensing.
And, if somebody is out on vacation or sick leave, they don't have to leave notes. Automation ensures continuity and makes onboarding new staff easier.
Achieve Flexible, Transparent Purchasing
On the purchasing side, the flexibility to easily shop and buy from a variety of vendors is also key to maintaining sufficient stock. Your primary vendor is reliable most of the time, but it just takes one time when they don't have the product in stock to affect your patient’s experience. Even if you’re already working with secondary vendors, when you're pressed for time, relying on inefficient solutions means:
- Manually finding options
- Comparing pricing on your own
- Accounting for compliance with your primary vendor
- Uploading purchase orders across different interfaces
That can be costly in terms of missed savings and hours of drudgery.
If you're a pharmacist and need to quickly find another vendor with that product or a similar one, find a purchasing management solution that integrates all of your vendors. That will allow you to quickly search, compare and place orders from your entire purchasing catalog through a single solution. So, when there's a national shortage and you can’t purchase medications from one vendor, you can find which vendor still has some of that product in stock.
A best-in-class solution will also find the same drug under different categories in case your wholesaler can’t supply the exact product. For example, instead of being tied to one NDC, the system will look at product groups (i.e., drugs with the same GDC) so you can select from different manufacturers or bottle sizes but still get the proper medication.
You also want the ability to easily see and order the best option from that mass of data. So look for a solution with intelligent automation to search all those options and an intuitive interface. You’ll be able to visualize all those items in the platform based on your goals. For example, set up a product group view to see different bottle sizes and then analyze brand names versus generics all in one place. Vendor websites just won’t allow you to visualize the information the way you want easily.
Give Yourself a Competitive Advantage (and a Break)
As pharmacy professionals, our goal in pursuing this career is knowing that we can help somebody by getting them the medications they need and taking care of others as a healthcare provider. Without that ability, we may feel vulnerable because we’re not fulfilling that goal.
When we go to pharmacy school, it's focused on the clinical side: medications, diseases, and the chemistry behind them. We don't receive much direction on the management: financials, inventory management, procurement, hiring, managing a team, etc. But a pharmacy career encompasses all those duties, which you learn when you're in the throes of everything. You learn in the field at the same time you have to satisfy the clinical requirements—what you pursued this career for in the first place.
Make things easier for your patients and you. Find a solution to automate and streamline tasks where it’s needed. They may be clinical, managerial or financial. You’ll give yourself the means to stay on top of everything, and you won’t have to worry about having your patient’s essential medication in stock or looking through five different interfaces to find it.
If you're interested in learning how SureCost can help your pharmacy optimize procurement so you save more, stay compliant and work smarter, book a meeting today with one of our experts.