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Inventory Management Technology as the Hub of a Fully Integrated Specialty Practice Solution: Part Two

By Lisa Harrison

Inventory management systems can improve patient engagement and help attract and retain patients by enhancing their experience.

Most physicians would agree that both patient engagement and the patient experience are highly important to practice success. On the engagement side, outcomes are at stake: When clinicians invest in partnering with patients—by explaining their conditions and treatment options and encouraging them to be active participants in their care—those patients tend to get better faster and at a lower overall cost. When it comes to the patient experience, physician practices can take a page from other service industries to help attract and retain patients. Amazon and Netflix are dominating their sectors in part because they give their customers exactly what they want in a simplified and streamlined consumer-friendly package. Patients are looking for similar accommodations in the form of things like shorter wait times for their appointments and doctors who seem to really listen to their concerns.

So where should a specialty practice begin if its goal is to provide more patient-centric care? One easy place to start is with the technologies it already has on hand: its EMR, its practice management (PM) system and its inventory management system.

The role of inventory management (IM) systems in providing patient-centric care may be a new approach for physician practices, especially if they are used to thinking of IM simply for drug storage. However, IM technology can also help reduce a practice's costs and improve cash flow by automating manual processes, optimizing ordering and reducing unnecessary waste. And by seamlessly communicating with EMR and PM systems, an integrated IM platform can help practices achieve better clinical outcomes.

Here's how this same functionality can help specialty practices improve the patient experience and facilitate better engagement.

Ensuring medication availability through supply monitoring
A fundamental reason to use an IM system is to have an easy way of knowing what's in stock and what's not. By integrating IM technology with an EMR, a practice can maintain its pharmaceutical inventory at exactly the right level for its patient population. This means physicians never have to worry that a drug might run out or even be in low supply. And from the patient's perspective, this ensures that care won't be delayed: When they arrive in the clinic for their scheduled appointment, they can trust that the medicine they need will be there.

Preventing errors and complying with "Track and Trace"
The IM system and its associated cabinets are the last stop on a medication's journey from the manufacturer's laboratory to the patient's body—and therefore the last opportunity for quality control. The FDA's Drug Supply Chain and Security Act (also referred to as “Track and Trace") requires that drugs be tracked across the entire supply chain to ensure that the products doctors dispense haven't been altered in any way. By facilitating this process in a physician's practice, an IM system guarantees that patients get exactly the medications they are prescribed. That's important to achieving better outcomes, and it's important to the patient experience overall.

Optimizing drug administration through EMR integration
While knowing that you have the right drug is one thing, it's also important to deliver it at the right dose. Because an integrated IM system can provide a window into the patient's medical record, it gives the clinician a simple way to ensure they dispense the correct amount every time. Such accuracy is obviously a requirement for providers, but it's also critical to the patient experience: If an over- or under-administered drug doesn't have the effect that was intended—or worse, results in serious complications—the patient may decide to never come back.

Increasing time for patients by improving physician workflow
Physicians often complain about the time they spend on administrative processes, but they're not the only ones who find the work problematic. Patients also tend to grumble about those doctors who seem more interested in digital documentation than having meaningful conversations about their health. By automating medication tracking and other cumbersome tasks, and by connecting medication dispense information with the appropriate profiles in the EMR and PM systems, an integrated IM platform can help clinicians spend more time with their patients. And this, of course, should make everyone happy: Physicians can focus on providing high-quality care without getting bogged down in the requirements of data entry, while patients can enjoy a more personalized care experience with doctors who are giving them their undivided attention.

In the end, an integrated IM system on its own isn't enough to solve the challenges associated with patient engagement and experience. It is, however, an important piece of the puzzle for any practice where medications play a role in patient care.

About The Author

Lisa Harrison
SVP & President, Specialty Distributions & Solutions
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