What kind of technologies help pharmacies stay organized when taking and keeping inventory?
Technology solutions, such as software offering closed-loop reconciliation from wholesaler to bedside, provide item level visibility for all transactions involving controlled substances. Without this closed loop reconciliation data, pharmacies lack the reporting necessary to demonstrate complete and accurate accounting of controlled substances.
Rex Swords, RPh, group vice president of centralized services for Walgreens, is responsible for the creation, strategy and expansion for pharmacy across the U.S. He noted that the pharmacy chain’s inventory system is integrated into the pharmacy production system, allowing for real time notification to staff on inventory position of the item.
“This same system can also notify patients through automated calls, text or email in the event that there is any inventory related issue with their prescription, providing additional information on availability and location,” he said. “The application of predictive ordering analytics anticipates the amount of inventory required to properly serve patients and automatically replenishes or adjust shelf stock levels to account for any changes.”
For controlled substances—which have laws surrounding the ways in which pharmacies must maintain complete and accurate inventory records, since the inventory system is integrated into the pharmacy production system—a complete receiving and dispensing activity record is always available.
Danny Dang, owner and pharmacist of New York-based Esco Pharmacy, has found success by implementing third-party HIPAA compliance application programming interface (API) programs to help address anything that can replace manual tasks, like ordering, inventory updating, expiration, waste and more.
“Each controlled prescription requires a lot of manual documents from pharmacists, including document quantity dispensed, date of distribution and pharmacist signature,” he said. “For refills, the pharmacist will retrieve the prescription and sign and date below the initial fill, a process that can take anywhere from three to 15 minutes. With electronic data management and log modification from software, no time is wasted and audit hiccups from lost prescriptions or forgetting to sign are eliminated.”
This gives pharmacists more time for patient consultations and other important tasks.
“Plus, with the available technology platforms, pharmacists can generate a quick biannual report of real-time, accurate inventory on hand to keep compliance versus using manual counts and records,” Dang said. “It’s more seamless to track inventory discrepancy by generating logs and tracking via tech solutions.”
Kimberly Shaw, PharmD, lead pharmacist in a mid-sized community pharmacy in Arizona, is responsible for overseeing inventory management and ensuring regulatory compliance.
“Managing inventory compliance is particularly critical when it comes to controlled substances,” she said. “Pharmacies must maintain complete and accurate inventory records for these substances, and failure to do so can result in significant fines and penalties.”
One way to ensure compliance, she shared, is to use technology that tracks controlled substances from receipt to dispensing. This type of software can provide real-time tracking, monitor dispensing patterns, and generate reports for auditing purposes.
“This can help pharmacies avoid fines and penalties associated with non-compliance and ensure that they are meeting all regulatory requirements,” Shaw said.
Greg Russell, PharmD, pharmacist in charge at Russell’s Pharmacy in Sunrise, Fla., noted a pharmacy management system can help automate the inventory management process. This ensures that all inventory transactions are accurately recorded and tracked in real-time, controlled substances are accounted for, and inventory records are always up-to-date.
“Implementing barcode scanning is also important,” he said. “Barcode scanning can help prevent errors in inventory management, making it easier to track the movement of controlled substances within the pharmacy. This can help ensure that all inventory records are accurate and complete.”
RFID technology can also help automate the inventory management process, allowing pharmacies to track the movement of controlled substances in real-time. This can help ensure that all inventory records are accurate and complete, and that any discrepancies are identified and corrected immediately.
Wendy Sellers RPh, a pharmacist for 29 years who currently works at OrderInsite, which provides technology and insights for pharmacists to manage and monitor prescription drug inventory, noted suspicious order management tools like OrderInsite’s OI Guardian can ensure a pharmacy is not placing orders that exceed limits or thresholds for controlled substances, while drug counting tools like OrderInsite’s OI Count can be configured to count controlled substances on multiple cadences.
“For example, a pharmacy may want to count all CIIs monthly and all controlled substances quarterly or annually,” she said. “The technology provides the resources and real-time data that pharmacists need to remain compliant by detecting suspicious drug orders and preventing diversion.”
Electronic prescriptions are also recommended, as they can eliminate errors in inventory management, and are automatically recorded in the pharmacy management system. This can help ensure that all controlled substances are accurately tracked and accounted for.
“Regular audits of inventory records can help ensure that all controlled substances are accounted for and that inventory records are accurate and complete,” Russell said. “Audits should be conducted on a regular basis to identify any discrepancies and ensure that corrective action is taken immediately.”