At any given time, your hospital pharmacy is up against some tough inventory management challenges. You need tactics to prevent drug shortages. You need ways to keep costs down while providing top-notch care. And you need to be able to carry the innovative new drugs that patients need. Here are three strategies to achieve these common inventory management goals.

1. Be proactive to prevent drug shortages

Preventing drug shortages is crucial to delivering consistent care to your patients. But doing so means planning for a number of factors that can cause a shortage. Things like unavailability of raw materials. A recall. A delay in manufacturing. Or an unexpected spike in demand. To navigate all these variables, you need to build proactive communication strategies with everyone involved in the drug supply chain.

Christopher Van Norman discusses this in “How Your Hospital Pharmacy Can Manage Drug Shortages.” Van Norman is the director of operations for McKesson Pharmaceutical Solutions and Services. He notes that you should have proactive communication with three key groups:

  • Distributors and manufacturers. Tell them about your drug needs and changes in your buying patterns. Ask them to tell you when a drug you need becomes unavailable and whether it is a short-term or long-term issue.
  • Other hospitals in your system. You need to know which hospital has which drugs and how many of each they have. When there’s a problem, you can move inventory around and share drugs with other hospitals in your system.
  • Staff within your health system. Create a board or committee that’s above the individual pharmacies if your hospital is part of a large system. That committee of individuals can help ensure communications are happening across the health system on inventory best practices.

When you communicate effectively with everyone involved in getting the right drugs to your patients at the right time, you do your due diligence in preventing a shortage.

2. Use data to lower costs and improve care

Minimizing costs while delivering better care can sometimes seem like a daunting task. But if you tap into data within your supply chain, you can make positive changes that help your hospital pharmacy achieve both of those goals simultaneously. Cindy Jeter expands on this in “Empower Your Hospital Pharmacy’s Supply Chain Through Data.” Cindy Jeter is the supply chain management consultant for McKesson RxO. She explains that hospital pharmacies often default to ordering the same quantity of inventory as they have in the past. But this can lead to a surplus sitting on your shelf—or a shortage. To get that “just right” amount, you should look to supply chain data within your automated systems. This data can tell you:

  • Whether the demand for a drug has diminished
  • Whether a newer drug with better clinical results is available
  • Whether historic prescribing patterns have changed
  • Whether you need to adjust your periodic automatic replenishment (PAR) levels

All of this information can help your hospital pharmacy be a more efficient purchaser. When you are a more efficient purchaser, you save money and cut waste. You have the correct amount of inventory on your shelves to manage costs and deliver optimal care.

3. Plan ahead to carry new drugs

While managing existing drugs is often challenging enough, your hospital pharmacy also needs to find ways to carry new drugs as they emerge. Terry Smith discusses this in “New Drugs Require Strategic Planning for Hospital Pharmacies.” Smith is the vice president for McKesson RxO. He notes that the high cost of new drugs requires you to be fiscally responsible while also planning ahead. You don’t want to have too much on hand or overextend your budget—but you do want to be able to provide cutting-edge treatments for your patients.

There are several things you’ll need to be able to carry new drugs:

  • A strategic plan from pharmacy leadership. Leadership at your pharmacy should use insight from colleagues and other leaders in the pharmacy industry to draw up a thoughtful plan. What is your strategy for when new drugs hit the market? How will you choose which ones to carry, and in which quantities?
  • Make sure you have the right labor pool. Do you have the proper mix of pharmacy staff to add new drugs to your pharmacy? You should also make sure hospital administration and medical staff support your strategy.
  • Follow inventory best practices that offer strong clinical, cost saving, and revenue generating opportunities. Be smart about ways to control spending even when adding new drugs. These include things like formulary management, Six Sigma processes and purchasing controls.

When you have a thoughtful plan in place, your hospital pharmacy is in a better position to acquire new, breakthrough drugs for patients who need them the most.

Following the tips above can help your hospital pharmacy manage its inventory in a way that benefits everyone involved. At the end of the day, you want that “just right” amount of the drugs your patients need. It means your hospital pharmacy can flourish, and your patients can get the care they need.

Related: Learn more about McKesson’s consulting and technology solutions for hospital pharmacies

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McKesson editorial staff is committed to sharing innovative approaches and insights so our customers can get the most out of their business solutions and identify areas for operational improvement and revenue growth.

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