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Pharmacies, biopharma companies and health systems all play different roles in healthcare. But they have one thing in common: They need well-oiled supply chains to make sure patients get their treatments safely and on time. Efficient supply chain management doesn’t just benefit patient outcomes, though. It also helps your bottom line. Use the following insights—taken from our Ask a Supply Chain Expert series—to improve your supply chain processes and keep everything running smoothly.

1. Enlist a distributor to help with inventory management

For pharmacists, inventory management is crucial to proper supply chain management. You want to avoid drug shortages but also keep a lean enough inventory to be financially successful. Having the right amount of inventory in stock—no more and no less—can help you reduce operating costs and manage your supply chain more efficiently. Todd Kleinow expands on this in “Best Practices for Retail Pharmacy Supply Chain Management.”Kleinow is the vice president of strategic distribution and operations. He suggests working with a distributor to handle inventory management. By doing so, Kleinow says, “you can have your distributor act as your backroom,” instead of having drugs sit on your shelves, tying up capital.

A distributor can store your stock and carry the cost until you need your drug. You can order your drug and have it the next day, ready to give to your patients. This allows you to keep a leaner inventory that still gets medication to patients who need it, when they need it.

2. Don’t discount drug packaging

For biopharma companies, drug packaging is an often overlooked factor in supply chain success. While it may seem like a secondary concern, it can have far-reaching consequences on how your drug is used. J.L. Thompson discusses this in “Smart Ways to Boost Supply Chain Efficiency for Drug Manufacturers.” Thompson is the drug packaging project manager for RxPak. He recommends choosing packaging that:

  • Allows you to ship, track and store drugs safely and efficiently
  • Is easy for patients to open and use
  • Matches the needs of a drug, including temperature controls or other logistics

Packaging can not only affect the safety and efficacy of your drug, but also sales and adherence. As Thompson notes, “If the packaging is not appealing or is hard to open, patients may be less likely to buy the drug or use it properly.” This can disrupt your supply chain, so think about the right drug packaging from the start.

3. Switch to product standardization and predictive ordering

Health systems often have multiple non-acute care sites that order, stock and use medical supplies. Because of this, standardization can create a more efficient supply chain. Scott McDade discusses this in “How to Improve Supply Chain Efficacy for Non-Acute Care.” Mcdade is the general manager of health systems for McKesson Medical-Surgical. He explains that product standardization can reduce supply variability. This lowers supply chain costs. It also makes processes more efficient. Plus, McDade says, “you reduce the variability that goes into how you deliver care,” which benefits your patients.

You can also switch to predictive ordering. Do this by using data to figure out which items your non-acute sites order regularly. Then, set up a formulary and focus on product standardization and automatic ordering. This way, you’ll only need to manually order 15 percent of what you need, rather than 100 percent.

4. Learn from data within your supply chain

Automating supply chain processes can be a big help to your hospital pharmacy. But if you’re not gleaning insights from the data in the automation system, you could be missing out on crucial ways to improve your supply chain. Cindy Jeter expands on this in “Empower Your Hospital Pharmacy’s Supply Chain Through Data.” Jeter is a supply chain management consultant for McKesson RxO. She explains that you can use your data to learn:

  • The current demand for any given drug.
  • Whether a newer drug with better clinical results is available.
  • Whether you need to adjust your PAR levels. This is the amount of a drug you need to safely have onsite at a given time.

When you use the data from your automated system, your pharmacy can make better purchasing decisions. Plus, you’re likely working with different systems that house different types of data. Drug utilization information may be in one system. Purchasing data and accounting data could be in another. Pulling together all this data and mining it for insights can improve supply chain management. As Jeter points out, it helps you “make operational changes based on the scientific data bottled up in those systems.”

It doesn’t matter if you’re a large-scale health system, biopharma company or a pharmacy. Taking steps to make your supply chain processes more efficient helps everything run more smoothly—from your day-to-day operations to patient care.

Related: Learn more about McKesson’s pharmaceutical distribution services

McKesson

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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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